October 1, 2012 PARIS
Through all his years at Dior Homme, Hedi Slimane always knew how to create a sense of occasion. His womenswear debut for the newly rechristened Saint Laurent took place in the Grand Palais, possibly the most magnificent exhibition space in Paris, except that Slimane led his audience up single-file escalators and down singularly un-magnificent administrative corridors before they happened upon the sepulchral rectangle of show space. A trick! As klieg lights rotated and Daft Punk's electronics pulsed, the ceiling closed in, shifting hydraulically into a new configuration. It was a spectacularly ominous effect, like a techno overture to…what? A promise of the future? A man who can reshape space is surely capable of such.
Not the case tonight. Post-show, Betty Catroux, longtime muse to Yves himself, was delirious with delight, proclaiming Slimane the savior for all womankind. But a reality check suggested something less grandiose, more in tune with the way Slimane has been spending his time since he left fashion five years ago. In the City of Angels, to be precise. True, he hot-wired himself into the YSL legacy with Le Smoking, the mousselines, the pussy bows, the shot of animal spot, and that thing called Saharienne (which will always be Veruschka in Vogue). The tassels said Morocco—they also said Opium, à la Yves.
But it felt like the real mood of the collection was dictated by Slimane's L.A. sojourn. The pared-to-the-bone rock-chick look—with its legging-slender pants and tiny sequined jackets—was one facet. The other, deeper reference was the city's plangent, occult pull. The women on Slimane's catwalk today looked like the witchy covens who'd surround rock groups in the sixties/seventies heyday of the Strip. Or maybe even earlier, when the artist Cameron seduced the stalwarts of the Ferus Gallery. The floor-sweeping, full-sleeve dresses had the deeply gothic tinge that is peculiar to L.A. With the models' faces uniformly shaded by wide-brimmed hats, it seemed that witchy seduction was the agenda of the evening. A bizarre way to stake a claim to one of fashion's most unimpeachable legacies, maybe, but it felt perfectly in tune with what one could legitimately claim to be Slimane's California obsession. And the clothes struck a major chord with the babes in the audience—the Kills' Alison Mosshart claimed she was ready to take a fourth job to afford them.