Monday, January 21, 2013

Hedi Slimane unplugged

saint laurent paris FW1314 via
Julia Nobis just cemented her position as fashion's coolest girl by closing Hedi Slimane's much-anticipated menswear runway debut for Saint Laurent Paris. She wasn't the only woman on this season's menswear runways – nor the only woman in the Saint Laurent show – but the brand's new creative director Hedi Slimane obviously has a soft spot for the Australian tomboy, casting her in his womenswear and menswear show debuts for the storied Paris maison, as well as the Spring/Summer 2013 womenswear campaign. And the feeling is, evidently, mutual. "Awesome" is the word Nobis used to describe working with Slimane when we caught up with her at last month's Australian Fashion Foundation party in Sydney

Slimane's womenswear debut last October divided reactions – critics were disappointed, while buyers applauded it. Coverage of his over-reaction to one specific negative review from The New York Times' Cathy Horyn overshadowed all other press. 

The womenswear gig was always going to be far tougher for Slimane than his native menswear, which is how he made his name. 

Menswear is a different equation and Slimane has a firm footing here. It's a far less saturated market and the luxury menswear business is definitely on the ascendant, growing at double the rate of the womenswear market.

This is in fact the second Saint Laurent Paris menswear collection designed by Slimane, but the first to appear on a runway. The company opted for a soft showroom launch only during the Spring/Summer 2013 menswear season, followed up by an advertising campaign online shot, naturally, by Slimane. Among others, the latter starred another woman, Saskia de Brauw (who walked in the Givenchy menswear show last week).  

Luxury grunge best sums up this second collection – and seemingly a specific ode to grunge icon Kurt Cobain. This is ironic, since Cobain notoriously never wore any designer clothing, opting instead for cheap, thrift store finds.

The collection opened with a Slimane signature, a skinny black suit - that was later chased up with a Saint Laurent signature, le smoking - and the collection showcased a number of other slick rocker looks on a cast that included numerous real-life musicians. There was a very cool, skinny grey pinstriped suit, a number of leather jackets and motocross pants with designer rips and zippers and even a glam rock-look fur cape. 

There were enough nods to Cobain to make it more than coincidental - blended with a mélange of YSL house codes, perhaps specifically, the Rive Gauche collections of 1968, that were presented in the aftermath of the French student riots. Saint Laurent's women's Fall ready-to-wear collection that year, which featured duffle coats and cowboy boots, was dedicated to the student protestors. The new Rive Gauche men's collection included black satin trousers

The Cobain nods included his signature red and black striped sweater - apparently souvenired by Cobain from a Nirvana fan outside one of their concerts – and worn oversized by Nobis, then echoed in several super-long, skinny scarves. The checked flannel-look shirts. The ripped jeans. The penchant for animal prints. Animal prints may well have been a major trend of this menswear season, but one of the most iconic images of Cobain is of the late Nirvana frontman in a tattered leopard print coat. Slimane’s micro leopard print scarves looked to have been given the designer moth-eaten look. 

Then there was this model, a dead ringer for Cobain:

saint laurent paris FW1314 via
No brown mohair cardigan, in which Cobain famously taped an episode of MTV Unplugged at the Sony Music Studios in New York in November 1993 and which was screened one month later - four months before his suicide – and which reportedly prompted a run on cardigans at the The Salvation Army. But there was a leopard print cardigan and plenty of other droopy handkitted knitwear, including some oversized Fair Isle sweaters with a paillette finish.

Slimane has photographed Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who also granted Slimane access to some of her father's memorabilia for a photo diaryThis collection will, coincidentally, hit stores on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of Cobain’s death. 

As fashion's own rock star comes full circle from his designer debut - appointed 17 years ago as the director of menswear at Yves Saint Laurent, before he made his name at Dior Homme - it will be interesting to see just how many women flock to his menswear retail stage. 


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