Since 2012, when designer Hedi Slimane began his reboot of the Saint Laurent brand, the label has been closely linked with music. Whether that be the young indie bands which populated the front row of his shows to the chagrin of uptight fashion editors banished to the rows behind them, or the designs themselves which are frequently dosed with gig culture – Glastonbury wellies and Courtney Love tiaras were a feature of his last show in Paris. Advocates of the brand are often those who play music for a living, from Justin Bieber to Keith Richards.
So it was significant that at the Saint Laurent show in Paris on Monday evening – the second part of the brand’s fall collection which began in blockbuster gig fashion in LA last month – that there was no catwalk music at all. Instead, the soundtrack was simply the voice of Benedicte de Ginestous announcing the arrival of each of the outfits. “Numero un … number one,” she declared in a tone at once overly dramatic but also compelling. The significance of this device was not lost on the audience seated on personalised chairs in marble-heavy salons – de Ginestous announced the numbers of each look for Yves Saint Laurent’s couture shows between 1977 and 2002.
If the catwalk bingo calling device and the mannered opera chairs paid homage to the house’s history, the clothes themselves were nine parts Slimane, to one part Yves Saint Laurent. Each of the 42 looks echoed one dominant idea – that of a fierce late 1980s party girl – with the odd nod to the label’s original hallmarks thrown in. The take-home image was that of a cocktail-minidress-wearing woman with slicked-back hair, heavy lipstick, sheer tights, a wide belt and an overly dramatic shoulder detail. Picture a woman dancing in a Roxy Music video and you get the starting point. Make her dress shorter, shinier, and razor cut to a millimetre of her breathing capacity, slot in the odd sequinned catsuit, biker jacket and puffball skirt and you have the full picture. The designer himself called the look a reference to classical editorial style, with slicked-back hair and red lips of a zillion Helmut Newton inspired magazine covers throughout fashion’s recent history.
Before the show began, guests were gossiping about the rumours that this will be Slimane’s last show for the brand, with designer Anthony Vaccarello hotly tipped to succeed him. But by the end of the show, the audience were wondering whether they had in fact seen the first couture show under Slimane. The brand announced that for this show it had reinstated the couture ateliers in Paris and Angiers – a plan Slimane has had for the house since taking the helm. He has also said that the reason he initially dropped the Yves from the branding was to eventually make some bandwidth and branding space for a reinstated couture line at some point. Moreover, this collection took place in a restored 17th-century mansion – L’hotel de Senecterre in Saint German which it is calling its new “couture house”. At the end of the show, it wasn’t clear whether the is was actually the end of the Slimane era, or simply the start of Slimane’s second act for Saint Laurent. The latter seems the more likely.