Saint Laurent autumn/winter 2014 catwalk show Photo: Isidore Montag
Now into their fourth season together, the press and Hedi Slimane know more or less what to expect from one another. A state of truce has been declared and all the Hedi tropes have become a new kind of normal.
Stella McCartney autumn/winter 2014 at Paris Fashion Week
Chloe autumn/winter 2014 at Paris Fashion Week
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Slimane is sticking to his guns, and it seems to be paying off. That meant yet another elaborate and to put it mildly, tangential, moving set design and a blatant disconnect between the invitation (the little black book that arrives regularly each season, this time with contributions from John Baldessori, the conceptual artist whose notes on cremating his collection made the frontispiece) and the retail catnip that comes down the catwalk.
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The too cool for school front rowers were all present and correct too. This time it was Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and singer Miles Kane, who provided the rock’n’roll factor by swigging champagne from a magnum. Kate Moss and Jamie Hince brought up the rear. Emmanuelle Seigner, Catherine Deneuve, Betty Catroux and Valerie Tierweiler filled the French femmes fatales d’un certain age brief, while this season’s mwah of other designers included Jean Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaia and Peter Dundas.
That air of normality has to be a positive for Slimane. It means that the audience can focus on the actual clothes. Or sort of focus, because these models come down that dark runway as briskly as planes revving up for take-off. No lacunae here: Slimane’s habit of repeating the same note in different keys makes for an undeniably hypnotic, clear message. It’s still black, still youthful, but probably not alienatingly so. Buyers have been told those bottom-brazing skirts won’t be any longer for stores – but there were probably enough alternatives.
Although the applause was muted – another normality at this show – it was probably his best collection to date. A winning marriage between Alison Mosshart (who was watching in the front row) and Madeline, the charming and always chic Parisian schoolgirl of Ludwig Bemelmans’ imagining, it could be summed up as short flared tartan kilts (some sequined), shrunken jackets, prim white Peter Pan collars on high-waisted velvet dresses and jewelled block heeled Mary-Janes. The latter were not a million miles from Miu-Miu’s but no less desirable for that.
Within that matrix were some beautifully cut tweed and Prince of Wales check trench-coats and a low heeled, black patent boot that looked like the commercial jackpot.
Oddly, the beaded 60s mini dresses seemed slightly underwhelming, including the three “couture” pieces credited to Baldessori. That might have been down to the styling: these abbreviated a-line shifts were partially obscured beneath capes and pea-coats. It was almost certainly deliberate. Slimane’s girl-woman must never be seen to be trying too hard. These sparkly party frocks will doubtless find their level at many music awards ceremonies in the coming months. Slimane has planted his flag on the rock and roll stage, but for the first time, this collection, with its ultra chic pea-coats and slouchy herringbone blazers, seemed to be reaching out to a more classically elegant dresser too.
Oh and he may just have single handedly made opaque black tights cool again. That’s a service to all women.
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All photos by Isidore Montag