x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Katie Trotter: Saint Laurent's baffling but brilliant show

Hedi Slimane is somewhat of a rebel, and there is no doubt all this is the work of precise calculation, not a minor misjudgement.

Few shows this season have caused as much of an uproar as Hedi Slimane's Autumn/Winter 2013 RTW collection for Saint Laurent (Slimane has dropped the "Yves", in case you hadn't heard). Why? Because it looked like nothing YSL (as its previous iteration was named) had ever produced before. Where were all the fierce tailoring and dramatic masculine lines? Not to mention, where were Le Smoking suits"? Instead, what walked the runway looked like a flock of 90s teenagers in old, smiley face Nirvana T-shirts, chewing gum and generally getting up to no good. Sure it was young; a bit rock 'n' roll and all that kind of thing, but for those over 20 and well past the age of anti-fashion, there was a whiff of rejection about the whole thing.

If you haven't seen it, think of a very young Courtney Love: ripped tights, skirts and tartan shirts and big, old holey cardigans; not exactly what you expect from one of the worlds most renowned luxury brands. Tartan flannel shirts and hand-knit cardigans were layered over lamé chiffon evening dresses, paired with decidedly cumbersome footwear, all set to a thumping soundtrack by Thee Oh Sees. We shouldn't be surprised, considering Slimane, the French-born, Italian-Tunisian designer and photographer, was the man responsible for systematically changing dress ideals in the 1990s. And, of course, all the models of the moment were there (Hanne Gaby Odiele, Lindsey Wixson and Cara Delevingne) and the front row included Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Chastain and Betty Catroux.

Yet, despite the overall feeling of teen spirit; remove a few layers and there was - to his credit - a whiff of a more sexy, grown-up woman with leather slashed leggings, beautifully tailored peacoats and a few of the classic YSL motifs: a bow at the neck or the use of leopard print. So while yes, it would be untrue not to admit things were a little off kilter (to find baby doll smocks and duffel bags when we wanted old-school elegance) I am fairly certain there was method to his madness.

You see, despite all the confusion, there must be a bigger plan. Hedi Slimane is somewhat of a rebel, and there is no doubt all this is the work of precise calculation, not a minor misjudgement. Sure, we miss the beautifully tailored jackets cut particularly short and with narrow, boxy shoulders along with his overtly feminine aesthetic but good things come to those who wait. Sure enough, Yves Saint Laurent's lifelong partner, Pierre Bergé, confirmed his support for Slimane in a recent statement to the Wall Street Journal, (something he didn't have to do, considering his public distaste for Tom Ford, the label's previous designer): "I adored it. It's exactly what needed to be done," he said, hinting of a grander plan. It will be interesting to see what happens next, and in any case, I suppose there is nothing much to worry about; a bit of controversy never harmed anyone.

ktrotter@thenational.ae