Saint Laurent S/S16
Saint Laurent S/S16

I’m searching for words to describe what Hedi Slimane has done for Saint Laurent. Let’s try this: Imagine a very flirty prom queen who is stumbling her way home after a two-week meth binge. That’s about the best analogy I can concoct with any accuracy. Models wore the type of thin little tiaras one sees at a junior high homecoming dance, and actually enhanced the circles under their eyes to make them look more like worn adolescents. This is a long way from the more heavily produced, sun-lit runway presentations we’ve seen in seasons past. This time, Hedi goes much, much darker, which feels a bit off for Spring, but really fits in well with the dark mood a day of persistent rain has left in Paris.

I would love to see Hedi’s mood board for this season. Something tells me there’s not a lot of colors there. While Saint Laurent sales have held steady, there have been a few bumps along the way, such as the allegation in September that Slimane had ripped off the design for a lipstick-print dress in his resort collection from a two-year-old Forever 21 dress that is practically identical. We’re accustomed to some amount of theft in fashion, but usually it runs the other direction, with low-cost retailers knocking off major labels. While the accusation is not likely to result in any formal action, it does add yet another ding to Slimane’s reputation.

Much of what we see here isn’t dramatically different than any other Slimane season. There are enough slip dresses with different biases for every day of the month. Some are more heavily embellished than others, some are naughtily sheer, some are sparkly, but when it comes right down to it a slip dress is a slip dress and after a while any look gets boring, no matter how much one likes it. Then, there are the jackets, most of which are, again, done in leather, most of which are also black. The most expensive of the lot is going to be an oversized alligator moto jacket that will only be available made to order. There’s also a jungle tapestry teddy jacket and a bleached python jacket that are quite attractive. Don’t expect any of them to sell for less than $5,000, though, even on sale.

Saint Laurent is attempting to justify the top-of-the-line pricing by emphasizing the detail in many of the pieces. The prime example would likely be a hand-embroidered python-pattern evening gown that is, by all accounts, quite a lovely piece of fashion. Someone put a tremendous amount of time into that and other embroidered pieces, and that certainly justifies a premium price. Not so convincing, though, are the smaller almost nothing there dresses that are merely copies of other dresses we’ve been seeing season after season after season since Slimane first went to the label.

The one piece that’s likely to get the most attention is a pair of black rubber boots. The label says the boots will also be available in black sequins and a rose tapestry, but we can pretty much promise it is the more utilitarian version in rubber that is likely to get more attention, assuming one has $2K to drop on a pair of stylish galoshes.

Yes, there are some very attractive pieces in this collection and for those who really like slip dresses Hedi has just given you an excuse to refresh your wardrobe. Unfortunately,  the whole drugged-out, too-thin, party-binging model look isn’t a positive image. No one in their right mind wants to emulate these looks in real life. Fortunately, the label already has more refined and appropriate black and white imagery they’re ready to roll out, and those emphasize the more couture aspects of the collection.

This is a far cry from Hedi’s worst collection for Saint Lauren. If anything, its greatest sin is that it’s boring. One gets the feeling Hedi is trying to get away with merely slapping a new saddle on an old horse. Let’s hope boring sells or he could soon find himself looking for a new job.

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