PARIS, France — Does the widely reported, massive business success of Saint Laurent make Hedi Slimane critic-proof? Common sense would say yes. All the froth and furore has done nothing to deter the folk who throw their shekels his way. He must be doing something right. So denial of his talent would ultimately imply denial of their taste, and that way lies fashion fascism.
So this is no critique. It is simply a scratch of the head. Yet again.
The window-dressing was, as usual, impeccable. The backdrop was a dark, lustrous light installation, a vertical rush of binary code with horizontal photon dashes. The music was an irresistible earworm called “The Mirror” by Damaged Bug from LA. The invitation was a typically concise overview of a contemporary artist, in this case sculptor Larry Bell. Wikipedia provides this from an essay on Bell when he was part of a group show at London’s Tate Gallery in 1970: “[he] operates in various ways near the lowest thresholds of visual discrimination. The effect of this is… to cause one to make a considerable effort to discern and so to become conscious of the process of seeing.” Fancy!
And it did indeed take “a considerable effort to discern” after the 30th ill-fitting nip-slip dress had stormed past on Slimane’s catwalk. The girls wore tiaras and wellies with their slips, like a mash-up of Courtney Love and Kate Moss, two Hedi heroines (with the signal difference that Mossie’s rocks are real). That look was the foundation for a parade of big old leather jackets, shaggy furs (one looked troubled by some mange for added authenticity) and coats feathered and crystal-fringed, a mink blouson also heavy with fringe, snakeskin, patchworked denim and a gorgeous cardigan so laden with huge gold paillettes that it was hanging off the model’s shoulders. (Slimane might be the king of cardigans.) Imagine a heavily stocked rail in a price-is-no-object vintage shop.
In Slimane’s definitive interview with Dirk Standen on Yahoo, he made a detailed and convincing case for himself as the bearer of the YSL standard. With this collection, his case for creativity faltered. His reputation as an arch-marketeer, however, remained unsullied. Merchandisers think in categories. What has Slimane been missing? Evening wear! The show closed with a handful of the slinky, bias-cut gowns that muse Moss once wore so seductively for John Galliano. Definitely not an association Slimane would be happy with. So maybe he can do a little head-scratching now. But afterwards, he can at least rest easy knowing he lays on a stellar front row. A straw poll chooses La Femme’s Marlon Magnée as the cutest French pop star.