Saint Laurent Men’s

A rare snowfall has cast a mesmerizing white blanket over Paris, slowing traffic and turning sidewalks into hazard zones. But nothing could stop France’s First Lady Valérie Trierweiler, Anna Wintour, and Stephanie Seymour’s ubiquitous fashion-obsessed sons from attending the most anticipated show of the week. “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” to borrow from Diana Ross.

Hedi Slimane’s menswear return at Saint Laurent is a particularly interesting case. Having changed the course of men’s fashion during his legendary Dior Homme tenure, can he reinvent himself like, say, Phoebe Philo has at Céline?

Instead of the expected forward thrust, the collection harked back to the aforementioned golden era, more precisely a seminal show in January 2005 when he sent out long-haired models tricked out in capes and trailing scarves. The look was particularly fresh then, as the designer was exploring a flamboyant new territory. Tonight, though, Slimane’s pairings of capes, scarves, skinny pants (some zippered), and beige suede boots had a déjà vu quality, mainly because they were, well, déjà vu.

There were several hints at eccentricity, as in a spotted white fur coat, what looked like Keith Haring patterns on the sleeves of a black leather jacket, leopard prints on knitted coats and scarves, and the meticulously embroidered jackets that closed the concert-like parade. And yet, the collection seemed to be primarily about wardrobe basics: a pea coat, a slim black suit, a duffel coat, a biker jacket, Aztec-patterned sweaters, a back-to-Seattle checked shirt. They all looked finely crafted, but they barely broke new ground. These garments, and their layering, have already invaded the planet, in large part due to Slimane himself.

What the fashion world expects from Slimane (and from any great designer, for that matter) is an ability to transport the audience, which did not occur tonight, not even in the casting of skinny and lanky rocker models. It would be great to see him explore a new physical ideal, and maybe evoke the Saint Laurent legacy as perceptibly as he did with his women’s show in October.

Slimane clearly still has a knack for showmanship, however. The backdrop comprised a rotating carousel of speakers blasting a soundtrack by California musician Ty Segall. In fact, speakers have long been an obsession for Slimane; they featured prominently in his summer 2007 Dior Homme show and his Saint Laurent women’s debut. The impressive staging left us hungry for the fashion blockbusters that he’s made us accustomed to.

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