Saint Laurent’s absence at the Paris Fashion Week this Fall/Winter season did not go unnoticed. When news came that Hedi Slimane will hold his eighth and possibly final show in Los Angeles, it wasn’t all that surprising. The designer has lived in L.A. for years now, and his collections have been montages of SoCal life – its rock scene, its casual, hipster take on menswear, and its penchant for sunny colors and top-down T-bird glamour.
Naturally, the Palladium was the venue picked for the event. An iconic Art Deco, Streamline Moderne theatre on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, its 76-year history is bookmarked with classic performers like Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, as well as the Pop Expo ’69, a “teenage fair” where young, new acts like Jimi Hendrix was celebrated.
Amidst front-row celebrities Lady Gaga, Ellen Degeneres, Sam Smith, and Justin Bieber, Hedi Slimane held his own as the true star of the show. The media-shy designer even took an uncharacteristic bow and wave at the end of the show. His collection didn’t disappoint, but neither did it surprise – it can be best described as a logical extension of his Paris SS16 offering.
The first few boys walked out in skinny-cut three-piece suits and gold-trimmed bandleader jackets, finished with Hedi’s signature black fedoras. The more colourful looks included two-toned moto jackets with lava lamp lapels, suede lightweight bombers, and purple velvet jackets with contrast piping. The shape of an electric guitar appeared on the front of some jackets, while leopard prints, imperial French embroidery, and metallic studs adorned vests, sleeves, and lapels. Footwear was largely confined to sharp-tipped boots, rendered in warm calf or glitzy silver and gold.
Apart from the obvious glam/psych rock silhouettes, there was also an undercurrent of the wild West – a theme found repeated throughout this FW16 season. There were V-panelled shirt fronts and contrast-trimmed plackets, wide-V contrast stitching across the back of the shoulders in many of the jackets, as well as gold fringes running across the front of a leather blazer. It was perhaps an homage to the lesser-known deserts that surround the City of Angels, and the countless Western films shot here.
Unmistakably Hedi, but also true to Saint Laurent tradition, the looks championed a sexy androgyny to the tune of David Bowie. The Bohemian spirit of Yves’ iconic Rive Gauche collection was captured perfectly by the array of pussy bows, unkempt long hair, and ample animal print coats that swayed insouciantly even as a rock anthem blared through the speakers.
For a contained event like this, it was certainly a success. Trending all over social media, the #SaintLaurent show quashed all doubts that an uncoupling from the Paris runway would cost the brand some valuable exposure to buyers. Au contraire, divorcing from the one-after-the-other humdrum of fashion week gave the storied fashion house more ways to brand itself.
The standalone event (and the after-party, of course) generated the exhiliration of a rock concert, as hundreds lined up along Sunset Boulevard decked out in personal tributes to the brand. In an industry where the star power of designers overshadow the history of a brand, having a show in L.A. – a city not known as a fashion capital – didn’t matter.
Hedi’s clout drew crowds from all over the world, as could be attested by the many languages and accents heard around the theatre, and not for one second did anyone wish the show was anywhere else. Promotional material didn’t reveal one bit of couture, just black-and-white photos and videos taken by Hedi. But the crowds came flocking anyway.
Like Burberry and Tom Ford, Saint Laurent’s bold defiance of runway traditions is only viable because of its cult following. It’s not so much about the clothing anymore; it’s the pride that comes with saying “I just went to the Saint Laurent show”. Let the buyers come if they want to – the priority in branding now is harnessing social media clout. And it seems Hedi Slimane has this down pat, even though he’s hardly even trying.
His Style Diary is proud to be the exclusive Singaporean media at the Saint Laurent show. All images courtesy of PR.