Yves Saint Laurent F/W2016
Yves Saint Laurent F/W2016

If we’re lucky, this evening was the final show for Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. While rumors of his departure are still unsubstantiated, they’ve been swirling around Paris all week and tonight’s show did absolutely nothing to make anyone think that the designer has any intention of staying with the label. Everyone knows that Hedi prefers Los Angeles to Paris, which is why he did the brand’s ready-to-wear show there just prior to the start of New York Fashion Week. He’s been spending the majority of his time there for a couple of years, so general feelings, mine included, are that he would be better off employed by an LA-based label rather than a French house that has a reputation to uphold.

What was shown tonight was, allegedly, couture, not ready-to-wear. As such, it was shown in the much smaller and private couture house with only 150 guests in attendance. Guests names were engraved on brass plaques fastened to the back of their chairs, which may have been a first ever. Guests were told that there would be no music, which meant there was nothing to cover the cacophony of noise created by the host of camera shutters all clicking at once. Every click of a high heel on polished marble was audible. Every voice was an intrusion. Guests were also told to turn off their phones in an attempt to black out social media. That one backfired. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my Twitter account was exploding with pictures the moment the show started.

Feel free to feel sorry for the models who had to walk in this show. First, they had to walk down a full flight of marble stairs wearing impossibly high heels. I’m sure most women understand how challenging stairs can be when wearing heels even under the best of circumstances. These were not the best of circumstances. Many of the skirts were quite short and none of them offered much opportunity for the kind of movement one needs to navigate stairs safely. Second, the photographer’s “pit” was positioned so that their only opportunity to take pictures was as models descended the stairs. One female photographer, at whom I would have dearly enjoyed hurling a lens cap, kept yelling at the models to look up. Right, YOU try looking up while descending a precarious flight of stairs in heels. I am amazed no one slipped and fell.

While on the subject of models, though, this was the most high-profile presentation in Paris to be cast by all white models. For all the effort being made to create diversity in fashion, Slimane’s casting selection comes off as absolutely racist. There is no good reason for there to not be models of color in this presentation other than Hedi’s own closed-minded attitude.

As for the clothes themselves, what we saw was largely a direct rip-off of the house 1980s catalog. Too many sequins, too many one-shouldered looks, too many reminders of faded disco glory. Do we really need another round of butterfly sleeves? Do we really need more goth-inspired smudgy black eyes? There was a giant heart-shaped red coat that everyone photographed (on their phones that were supposed to be turned off). These might have been great looks for the late David Bowie back in the day, but, sadly, Bowie is dead and buried and so, as well, should be the treatment of most these looks.

Don’t think you’ll see any of these in your local department store. You won’t. Each one was handmade in Paris by the renewed Saint Laurent couture ateliers. That means you’d have to go to Paris, be specially fitted, and then wait for your specific copy of any ensemble to be created. Slimane, ever the egotist, wasn’t even seeing Vogue editors Grace Coddington and Emmanuelle Alt after the show, so don’t expect to make a reservation with the ateliers unless you’re planning on walking a major red carpet somewhere.

We hope that this is the last we’ll see of Hedi Slimane for Yves Saint Laurent. The house can do better. Sure, revenue has increased, but it has done so by diminishing quality and style to the point of being pedestrian. There’s little difference between Saint Laurent ready-to-wear and what one can buy at H&M. The only thing luxurious about current Saint Laurent is the price tag. Here’s to crossing our fingers in hope the rumors are true.

Our thanks and kudos to NOWFASHION photographer Guillaume Roujas who managed to snag photos without putting models’ lives in danger on the staircase.

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