Saint Laurent

So finally, the denouement. The dandified cool chick who opened Hedi Slimane’s debut for Saint Laurent—wearing a sharp three-piece tuxedo, a shirt tied with a droopy pussy bow, and a wide brim hat (think Carly Simon, but bigger and chicer, or Talitha Getty, a muse of Monsieur)—ended one of the most nail-biting periods in fashion history.

And boy, was there drama: the hushed revelations about his arrival at the house, the solemn announcement at the end of Paris Fashion Week last March, the controversial changing of the name, the closed-door menswear presentation last June (strictly for buyers), the slow online dissemination of the first campaign images, and the closely guarded secrecy over the show’s venue (the invitations were only delivered over the weekend).

And the proverbial drumroll continued tonight in the pitch-black room set up in the Grand Palais, thronged by celebs and VIPs ranging from France’s First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, to an enthusiastic Pierre Bergé, plus almost every designer of note, including Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Vivienne Westwood, Alber Elbaz, Azzedine Alaia, and Riccardo Tisci.

The finely produced spectacle started when, like landing gear on a plane, square panels on the ceiling changed into a tented roof over the audience, allowing a row of speakers to descend. Oohs and ahhs erupted as the room was sprayed with laser beams and the music grew more tense.

Then Slimane developed his vision of an elongated Saint Laurent woman hoisted on spiky T-strap shoes, a multi-layered contemporary girl at once tomboyish, romantic, sexy, feminine, and folksy.

In fact, Slimane touched on all of Yves Saint Laurent’s trademarks, most notably chic tailoring, expressed through flawless pantsuits and tuxedos, and safari jackets turned into floor-length dresses. The sumptuous eveningwear included a wide variety of chiffon gowns, some attached with lace, others trimmed in feathers, and a range of capes of varying lengths, often wonderfully embroidered. Color came in the form of chiffon gowns and djellaba-hooded capes, contrasting an otherwise black palette.

The maxi-lengths were clearly a nod to the seventies. And if taut leather jackets betrayed Slimane’s deep-seated rock devotion, the overall mood was more soulful, a feeling reinforced by Junior Kimbrough’s I Gotta Try You Girl, specially remixed by Daft Punk. This was, significantly, the first time the designer used a vintage song for a soundtrack, revealing a taste for blues.

So did it all live up to the expectations? Each outfit was incredibly endearing, and the collection’s richness and breadth of styles displayed a commercial viability. And with this musing on quintessential French chic, Slimane smartly distanced himself from all the neo-minimalism that is the main story of these four weeks of shows.

It wasn’t a sartorial revolution, but it was a remarkably assured debut, promising more nail-biting to come.

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