Let’s start from the fact that Yves Saint Laurent is the reason why I fell in love with fashion. So it kills me a bit inside that I’m disappointed with the present collections. Obviously this has nothing to do with Yves, the very much missed man but with Saint Laurent, the label under Hedi Slimane. I should also point out that I love what Slimane does as well. I loved his work at Dior and the way he revolutionized menswear. I absolutely adore his photo diaries and I went insane looking at his first collections at Saint Laurent. What is my problem then, other than sounding completely inconclusive?
Well, the problem is the huge imaginary question mark that came out of my phone like a hologram after looking at the latest Saint Laurent menswear collection. Personally Slimane’s world speaks to me completely, he draws inspiration from youth culture and everything that surrounds it. If electronica, neo-psychedelia and all kinds of rock music, indie or alternative, were clothes they would be manifested through Slimane’s Saint Laurent, and as a matter of fact they are. It’s impossible not to be intrigued by that world, whether you are a cool kid, even more so if you want to be a cool kid and even if you say you hate the cool kids that you secretly want to make out with and steal a bit of that coolness.
What I couldn’t figure out after watching the show was why I was kind of bored and annoyed if I was looking at a condensation of everything I liked strolling around on a catwalk molded on everything I’m interested in. Why was I so disappointed? Then I finally got it. Condensation: that’s what pissed me off. Now I know what to expect from a Saint Laurent show and expectation cancels anticipation. At the beginning I thought Slimane was speaking to my soul and now I’ve realized it’s nothing less than a perfectly polished, seductively walking in a tuxedo, synthesization of everything I like. The magic is gone and predictability waltzes in wearing a biker jacket. Perfectly packaged and presented through an army of young cool band guys and gals, wannabe DJs and what not, Slimane is offering customers the possibility to buy seemingly effortless yet accurately styled coolness. In ancient times people were tormented by the elixir of eternal youth, the tricks of alchemy, even Voldemort fell for it and started obsessing over the philosopher’s stone. He clearly didn’t know about Saint Laurent. It’s not going to be the cool kids buying Saint Laurent. a) They can’t afford it. B) You would think they’re already cool and don’t need a £3,100 leather jacket to prove it. C) you’d expect them not to care too much. From a strictly commercial point of view it’s a perfect strategy, in fact Saint Laurent sells and a lot. But when you think the collection is speaking directly to you, it’s speaking to your dad’s midlife crisis and your mother’s wallet and wrinkles instead. I like to think that there are also some positives to this. I appreciate the fact that Slimane pushes new artists, he’s definitely creating a scene giving hope to the rebirth of subculture on a less underground level and he’s also at the center of a real cult. Yet, I can’t help thinking that the result is homologation rather than revolution.
Saint Laurent is becoming the shortcut to coolness and the shield to the fatidic question ‘how old are you?’ when you hit the not so sunny side of your thirties. It’s like getting a liposuction instead of dieting and going to the gym. At the end of the day just because you’re wearing a Superman costume you can’t actually fly out of the window and dressing like Mick Jagger won’t necessarily make you one of the Stones. There’s nothing wrong with making people feel good about themselves but to what extent capitalizing over subculture and niche genres is a contradiction of subculture itself? Fashion is one of the many expressions and interpretations of selves. We are not machines so why the incessant repetition? The Slimane world is now very clear, I now wonder if there’s anything more to it. The collections are impeccable and desirable but the mystery is slowly fading away. There’s a strong look at the past reworked through current culture but where did the avant-garde and vision that allowed Yves Saint Laurent to break all sorts of barriers go?