California grunge was the inspiration for Hedi Slimane's second women's collection for Saint Laurent. Though the huge banners outside the Grand Palais still proclaimed "YSL" in the old typeface, that is more likely to be one last wrinkle of the past on the list to be ironed out, rather than an oversight on the part of a man whose yen for control is legend—to the point where you might almost think the stifling heat of the venue was his way to establish an ambience (an afternoon on Venice Beach, perhaps?).
The collection was set up as an extension of the menswear Slimane showed in January. The music today was from the San Francisco garage band Thee Oh Sees, who are part of the same scene as Ty Segall, the man responsible for January's fantastic soundtrack. The invitation arrived as the same little black artist's book, this time reproducing the rather wonderful paintings of young L.A. painter Theodora Allen. The art blog Little Paper Planes says her "carefully researched paintings expertly skirt nostalgia to examine longing and legacy."
With a little adjustment, that's a pretty fair description of what Slimane has been trying to do with Saint Laurent. The legacy today was grunge, not YSL; the longing was his own ardent attachment to a scene that was a continent and an ocean away from a kid in Paris at the beginning of the nineties. Slimane is not the only designer motivated by a powerful impulse to reimagine youthful yearnings. Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs immediately spring to mind as masterful mediums of pop-cultural watersheds like The Factory or the Beats. And of course, it was Jacobs who famously lost a job over his original recasting of grunge in a high-fashion context.
But there was no job on the line, no sense of present danger, with Slimane's collection today. And with regards to that adjustment, there was no expert skirting of nostalgia. Almost nothing looked new. Which didn't trouble Alexandra Richards, Alison Mosshart, and Sky Ferreira in the least. Such dream clients were all thrilled by what they'd seen. "That's the way I dress anyway," was their party line on the baby dolls, the schoolgirl slips, the vintage florals, the random mash-ups of sloppy cardigans, plaid shirts, and sparkly dresses accessorized with ironic strings of pearls and black bows, fishnets and biker boots. All well and good, and money in the bank for retailers etc., etc., but 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.
But wouldn't it be radical if Slimane was actually saying that there is nothing new under the fashion sun, that all that ultimately exists is the energy and inspiration you derive from those elements of the past that you value and love. The same kind of fanboy ardor makes, say, Shibuya 109 in Tokyo or Trash and Vaudeville in New York such wonderful retro romps. This collection will undoubtedly send orgasmic tremors through such places.