Twitter reactions (based on the Saint Laurent hash tag and not on the caliber of person posting) to Hedi Slimane’s second women’s ready-to-wear collection for Saint Laurent included the following:
“What the hell is Hedi Slimane thinking?”
“Oh my dear Lord. Is this Saint Laurent, or an average girls high street wardrobe? I want to cry.”
“What the hell happened to YSL? I’ve seen people on skid row dressed better.”
“We did not need a Rachel Zoe x Marc Jacobs grunge resort collection.”
“Saint Laurent show, a huge joke on the fashion industry?”
“Women’s Wear Daily reports that Saint Laurent is relocating their Paris studios. Hopefully they don’t tell Hedi where they’re going.”
I feel badly for Slimane. He’s had his ass handed to him by effectively everyone–even his fans. For all the editorial reviews that have tried to gather whatever beauty and raison d’etre is evident in his collection, camps of protestors have shown up in virtual armies at the comment feeds to refute the findings. Any comment of praise has been met with a biting, “but,” and no matter how literate, intellectual, articulate and authentic the positive reviews could have been, it just doesn’t seem to matter.
It’s true that Slimane may be taking a liberal breadth of creative license in his work for Saint Laurent, but if the re-branding and subsequent dropping of the household ‘Yves’ in Saint Laurent last season was an indication of anything, it was that Slimane’s vision would likely differ phenomenally from that of the late Yves’. So, yes, Slimane is certainly not to Saint Laurent what Raf Simons has proven to Christian Dior. But his creative departure from what’s expected at YSL can just as easily be viewed as a continuation of great House tradition.
In Alicia Drake’s book, The Beautiful Fall, a wonderful portrayal mirroring the careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in 1970s, Saint Laurent is credited as having popularized ready-to-wear in 1966 as a means to “democratize fashion.” Lest we forget, Yves Saint Laurent invented Le Smoking–a novel nod to androgynous dressing that maintained the antiquated spirit of feminine elegance.
Isn’t this precisely what Slimane is trying to do? Appeal to a different, perhaps larger, audience? The democratization of fashion at YSL in 1966 is not so different from the shift we’re seeing at Saint Laurent now. The underlying problem here, I believe, is that it seems like we’re way past the point of democratization. (Especially, when referring to a fashion house with such an extensive aura of highbrow radiating around it).
The concept of ready-to-wear has migrated far away from the original meaning of fashion-friendly “ready-to-wear,” and if the future of ready-to-wear remains — for lack of a better term — ready to wear, should it be ready to wear now?
One of the most beautiful things in fashion is that element of personal exploration. What is more refreshing than hating a collection at first runway glance (case in point: Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, season one) and finding yourself having grown to love it over the interim before the clothes hit sales floors? That’s an astute testament to evolving personal style, personal point of view, personal perception. Ultimately, Slimane’s spring suiting, suede and those ineffable leather jackets are the clearest indication that you can’t fake good fabric and that you can’t fake authentic artistry.
And you know what? In spite of my having loved the Fall collection (which, I did, and would effectively besiege the previous paragraph’s sentiment), I wholly applaud the aspect of realism and Slimane’s apparent hunger to modernize the brand.
Here’s the thing of it, though, I’m not Saint Laurent’s chic, overwhelmingly wealthy, French customer; I’m a groupie on the sidelines. So, what do I make of that? Does that chic, French customer even actually exist anymore? Have people expressed violent disinterest in the collection because it doesn’t appear to cater to that customer? Are we afraid that this disheveled girl is the new prototypical woman? And is that a sad, difficult conclusion to draw? Yes, maybe we’re in denial.
Clearly, I’m confused. Please, impart your wisdom.
Additional rhetoric provided by Charlotte Fassler