Oops, he did it again. But maybe he was just a little rusty last time round, because this time, it felt more persuasive. Hedi Slimane, fashion's foremost curator of pop arcana, presented a collection for Saint Laurent that refracted his cultural obsessions through a glass darkly. The blueprint is firmly established now. First, the invitation, a little black book with excerpts from the work of a current Slimane pash (this one used abstract artist Matt Connors, and it was the best-looking show invitation in living memory). Next, the soundtrack, something garage-y from California, preferably recorded yesterday, i.e. Sam Flax's "Fire Doesn't Burn Itself." Then, the mise-en-scène: dramatic, dystopian thunderdome technology that creates an electric light field. Finally, the clothes. Ah yes, the clothes.
What became much clearer in this collection is just how intensely Slimane distills his teenage dreams into the perfume of his version of Saint Laurent. He wasn't old enough for rockabilly and the Teddy Boys and glam rock in their original form. What he got was all the pop re-editions. And that's what showed up here, as splendidly styled as the cast of an Alasdair McLellan photo shoot. So the catwalk was a feverish stew of references. In fact, to borrow a song title from the New York Dolls—whose presence was felt more than once—there was a regular personality crisis. Picture Dolls' guitarist Johnny Thunders in his bolo tie and bandana and red patent leggings. Or David Sylvian with his flossy Japan-era swoop of hair and glam bolero. Or Suede's Brett Anderson, in a black leather biker and pipestem pants. (Train-spotter footnote: model Matt Hitt is in a band called Drowners, the title of Suede's first single.) There was even a veiled reference to the Thin White Duke, Slimane's influence of influences, in the last look: black suit, red hair, slicked.
What each of these iconic references shared was an aversion to avoirdupois. Slimane keeps that flame burning. If his boys once seemed merely wandlike, here they were line drawings of the human form. Their trousers were hitched so lift-and-separate high that the torso was truncated, forcing the boys into a hunched-against-the-wind pose. But wait! Paul Smith was once Jimmy Page's tailor, so he can attest to the fact that the Led Zeppelin guitarist, who toted massive double-necked instruments across the stages of the world, boasted a 24-inch waist. Which means that Slimane's wasp-waisted, shrunken-chested boy band members were simply continuing the grand rock 'n' roll tradition of absolute appetite deprivation. But they were doing it in sparkly clobber slapped with the label of a Parisian high-fashion house. Think of it as the most expensive fan letter in history.