paris fashion week: yves saint laurent

(images via style)

even though i like a good snark as much as anyone, and i’m usually the first to be clapping my hands in diabolical glee when confronted with the latest yves saint laurent (yes, i refuse to change their name until i know how long hedi slimane is to last. so all the evil hasn’t purged my soul yet, apparently) debacle for the a/w 2013 paris fashion week show, i have only to say this: i liked the clothes. they were fun, and there’s really nothing about grunge i don’t want to embrace. but (and you knew this was coming).

i agree they have precious little to do with ysl, and i’m not going to be like the fashionies, passive-aggressively assigning the blame to someone i ‘overheard’ at the show (read: one’s own inner voices). as i’ve said about countless other houses, from versace’s latest punk exhibition (a/w 2013), or when balmain tried equally to channel punk (s/s 2011), or balenciaga the ‘street’ (also s/s 2011), i wasn’t on board. i don’t like when designers try to sell the clothes of the kids (that they get at, like, thrift stores and from free boxes) to their parents, the fashionies thinking ‘cool’ is something one pays the highest bidder for.

but we’ve discussed all of this at length recently, during the versace show, and i really don’t have a lot of new thoughts here. it looks silly when grown women try to look like street kids, and i’ll leave it there. that, and i think we all know that ysl tends to be a much more upscale house than any of this nonsense (see resort 2011, a/w 2011, resort 2012, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, s/s 2013), and even mr. slimane appeared to understand this with his last collection (also his first for the house). in other words, a brand known for le smoking probably oughtn’t look so much like it is currently fetishizing live through this-era courtney love (though, say, anna sui can!).

and one more thing, before we move on. yes, these clothes were eternally cute, and wearable, and i have no problem with the way so many designers have been bringing singlesjanet livermore back to life (i’ve also seen vestiges of her in nicole miller’s a/w 2013 show, and kinder aggugini’s s/s 2012), but we all of us know how cheap these clothes can be, and it’s kind of an insult to anyone with a brain to think that paying well into the four figures is the right way to go on this.

that, of course, and then there’s the point, as many, many a critic made back during mr. slimane’s ysl debut for the spring season: this fundamentally comes down to a styling exercise, rather than a design one. now, i think we also all of us know that this is primary what mr. slimane is about, but this seems to be the way of the future for the high fashion houses these days: hire a celebrity, er ‘designer’. and it’s something ppr and lvmh love to do. they know they’ll shake things up, and appeal to women with deep pockets, even as they’re bypassing most of the creativity that used to go into this stuff.

now. i didn’t always, like, love stefano pilati, mr. slimane’s predecessor at the label, but i will grant that he took risks, shook things up, and refused to simply lie down and let the current trends do the talking for him, which ultimately resulted in some amazing collections (and let’s be real, no one can replace the irreplaceable tom ford. at least not these days). so! to recap, yes, the clothes are painfully cute and cool, and yes, we’d probably like to own everysinglebloodypiecehere, but is this where we envisioned ysl for the future? really? but maybe we ought get used to it, as i expect mr. slimane is about to make mr. pinault some serious cash monaaaaay.

alors. now for the critical portion of our hour! straight out of the gate, style assessed that “anyone expecting the frisson of the future that Slimane once provided would have to feel let down yet again. At the odd moments when he allowed it to happen—as in a cutaway jacket over a plaid shirt over slashed black leather cuissardes—there was a glimpse of the kind of rigorous sensibility that hybridized passion and fashion into an irresistible force at Dior Homme,” as fashion week daily noted that “the rock ‘n’ roll road trip left the essence of Saint Laurent dangling in the rearview mirror for a barrage of hotpants and dom-inspired leather minis that aren’t exactly sales fodder for longtime YSL devotees.”

meanwhile, us vogue a little too sweetly declared that “(g)Grunge chez Saint Laurent certainly has shock factor—and Yves Saint Laurent was, of course, the designer who managed to épater les bourgeois with his Mod biker chicks at Christian Dior…but his work was always shot through with innate class, and this collection—doubtless luxurious in the hand and elegantly merchandised in the showroom—looked at times a little too contemporary market on the runway,” as grazia protested that “(i)f this was a determinedly youthful and accessible collection that belied the fact that the attention to detail that bourgeois French fashion is known and respected for was in evidence also.”

and then, art info gasped that “(o)riginality may succumb to old tricks for SL by HS, but it’s consciously hanging on by a thread, and there’s definitely a biting commentary underneath all that commerciality. We’re excited to see, if and when that voice amplifies, what it can achieve,” while wwd perhaps offered the best-yet poke: “Few archetypes are more engaging than the undone girl, especially when under her ratty hair, pout, pounding gait and sloppy chic lurk a pretty face and skinny body. But is playing a cutesy, disaffected-youth hand enough to propel the house of Saint Laurent into today’s luxury stratosphere — especially if the targeted air space is that in which Chanel and Dior reside? That, too, remains a question.”

and more succinctly, the telegraph sniffed that “he needs to have more faith in the enduring allure of beautifully engineered pieces – and riff on them some more next season. Neither he – nor Saint Laurent – requires the styling tics of a 20-year-old teenage music revolution,” and elle chimed in with their sycophantic “(w)as this a brilliant collection? Yes. It defined the moment. Will it sell? Probably, very well. Is Hedi Slimane turning Saint Laurent into a modern woman’s go-to brand? If you’re cool enough.” ahem. yes, a popularity contest. that’s what ysl is all about. i can see the namesake pouring worms over his corpse as ppr rubs its hands in glee.

ahem. well. refusing to really tell us his own opinion, the nyt‘s eric wilson relied on ‘overheards’ before finally coming to point (sort of) and stating that “(t)he dresses were universally short, often black leather minis, worn with fishnet body stockings studded with crystals…Many editors present did not appear to be in love with the concept, but there were many pieces that looked commercially lucrative at the same time, like fuzzy tartan cardigans, a black tuxedo jacket, an oversize sparkly black cable-knit sweater, a gray duffel coat and another take on the gold sparkly cardigan jacket. The connection of grunge to Mr. Saint Laurent was less clear, though he did once produce a fragrance called Baby Doll, and a pink fur coat in Mr. Slimane’s show seemed a nod to a famous fox coat design of the early 1970s called the ‘chubby.'”

elsewhere, the guardian gave an analysis that wonderfully called out some of the biggest problems in fashion journalism before turning a little more direct and announcing that “(i)f you haven’t seen the collection, it basically looks like a jazzed up rail of Morgan from the 1990s, with grunge-style little dresses, skirts and tartan shirts. All a far cry from classic Saint Laurent style, to be sure. And guess what? People hated it,” as uk vogue fully wimped out: “When dissected there were some nice pieces but altogether it will be a hard collection for the traditional Yves Saint Laurent buyer and customer, so different is the output now that it’s Saint Laurent. And as Saint Laurent it’s very much Hedi’s take, which is youthful and a certain type of cool to the core.”

then–finally–there was the uninvited cathy horyn of the nyt, insisting on doing her part by informing us that “(o)ne of the first things the new designer, Hedi Slimane, did was to remove ‘Yves’ from the label, thereby severing a symbolic connection to the founder, and everything he stood for, like good taste and feminine power. But it was also a test of the label’s enduring appeal…Many people said the clothes looked like stuff sold at Topshop or a thrift store, while others defended Mr. Slimane’s approach and identified pieces, like a pink fur chubby, that relate back to Yves’s designs of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when he got ideas — say, for a pea coat — from the street. It’s doubtful that customers will make that connection, but such comments serve to validate what Mr. Slimane has done. And the controversy is good for Saint Laurent. But mainly it was clear to me how strong the name is. In terms of design, the clothes held considerably less value than a box of Saint Laurent labels. Without the label attached to them, Mr. Slimane’s grunge dresses wouldn’t attract interest — because they’re not special. But a box of labels is worth a million.”  shaazaaam!

(watch the full fashion show video here)

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