Little sets you up for a real pop show like having real pop stars in the front row. Brit rockers Alex Turner and Miles Kane played their parts to the hilt at Saint Laurent tonight: quiffs, shades, tight leather pants, and a magnum of champagne that provided liberal lubrication throughout the show. Afterward, they said the girls on the catwalk were the kind of girls they'd like to get to know, but let's imagine for a moment that there was more to that line than the obvious hookup. Yes, the models were perfect, sparkly, leggy complements to the lairy likes of Turner and Kane, but their outfits also distilled the mid-sixties moment when pop was purest—and when Yves himself was designing his own edgy responses to the tremors of London's youthquake. And the appeal of pure pop is timelessly potent for musicians like Turner and his Arctic Monkeys. (Of course, it doesn't hurt when it comes in the siren form of a supermodel.)
For his latest collection, Hedi Slimane chose Californian John Baldessari as the artist to feature in the little black folio that functions as his show invitation. Baldessari, now 82, is one of the grand masters of appropriation, repurposing preexistent or found imagery to create new art. It was an interesting choice on Slimane's part, maybe even a wry comment of sorts. "Appropriation" is a rather more agreeable word than other epithets that have been applied to his work at Saint Laurent, with its devotion to the source materials of youth culture.
But what this collection clarified is that appropriation can work in fashion as it works in art—something new can happen. Once again, context was critical. On arrival, the audience found a catwalk lined with mysterious metal troughs. As the show began, these "troughs" turned out to be huge hydraulic arms that formed a golden allée through which the models walked. (Slimane will always have a career in engineering if fashion lets him down.)
The notion of transformation seemed fundamental to the character of the clothes themselves. There were fifty-four outfits, but it felt like there were a thousand pieces within those outfits, ripe for recombining. Capes were significant, but so were glittery little dolly bird shift dresses. There were at least a dozen extremely desirable coats. The casual extravagance (extravagant casualness?) of Slimane's vision was best captured by Edie Campbell in a fur-trimmed army parka over a lamé top, black tights, and crystal-covered Mary Janes. Between the name and the look, it was hard to miss the spirit of Warhol's Edie, the ultimate pop princess.
At show's end, the hydraulic arms were reconfigured as golden arches. Not triumphal…that would have been too cynical. Instead, in all those pouty young women stomping out in their capes and glam, there was something that could be construed as celebratory. And defiant. Appropriation is, after all, still an act of creation. Ask Baldessari. Ask Warhol. Ask Slimane.