PFW AW14: Saint Laurent

Assuming the helm of a historic fashion house brings with it many challenges. First collections are either applauded or derided, artistic visions that do not sit well with the image of what the house “should” be, spark passionate arguments and lines are drawn; people are often asked to choose far too early which side of the sartorial fence they wish stand.

The designer is tasked with guiding the label to a new age and must pay his or her respects to the wealth of design history that has enamoured its fans thus far. In short: vision teamed with appropriation.

Hedi Slimane is keenly aware of this role at Saint Laurent. His first collection split opinion: fashionable fists were raised – metaphorically that is – to argue sides, he was considered by some to be a heretic. He is however, a man of vision and continued on his path, and has now silenced – most of – his critics.



These two guiding concepts were tackled with great success this season; Slimane delivered a strong collection for the house, one with an acknowledged debt to John Baldessari, whose work and words were featured in the show’s invitation booklet. Appropriation features heavily in Baldessari’s work and he is adept at repurposing pre-existing or found imagery to create new art. It is this concept – in the form of youth culture – that has been all over Slimane’s runway since his Saint Laurent debut.


The collection had its roots planted firmly on Carnaby Street in the ‘60s, an over-riding theme from this season, but also a perfect amalgamation of the concepts designed to take a house forward. The decade is famous for its revolution in clothing, music, education, sex and youth culture. Here, the Saint Laurent girl was a kindred spirit of Marianne Faithfull Jane Birkin and Edie Sedgwick. Silhouettes were sharp, short and shiny. Lurex tweeds, sequins were teamed with crystal-covered Mary Janes and boots that seemed to have been formed of pure glitter.

Of course appropriation without the transformation into something new is purely pastiche; and here like Baldessari, Slimane achieved his goals. A total of 54 outfits  were shown and all were perfect for recombining. The shimmering capes and delicate baby-dolls could be added to the tweeds and the lurex into any manner of combinations, turning you into in-numerous versions of Slimane’s heraldic pop princesses.

The mechanics of the catwalk itself were transformative. Metal troughs that lined the catwalk, at the show’s end reconfigured into golden arches and the models stomped defiantly though them. It was a celebration of visionary women in a transformative decade but perhaps also of the designer himself; as his vision is successfully taking Saint Laurent into the future.

by Marie-Louise von Haselberg

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