Who is Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent girl? She’s 5′ 10″, 31/24/33.5, brown hair, blue eyes, and still answers to Gracie … at least for now. Her name is Grace Hartzel (NEXT) she’s from the Midwest.
I mention that in large part because I know there are a lot of teenage girls running around this region who would dearly love to be runway models, but have people telling them that girls from the Midwest can’t make it. Guess again. Two years ago, the world fell in love with a Midwestern girl named Karlie Kloss. Now, Hedi has tagged Gracie as his muse and is building the campaign for the permanent collection around her.
Oh, and what did she do before Saint Laurent? She was the cover girl for Pattern‘s first issue. Just saying.
So, given all that background, I guess I should probably take it a little easier on Hedi this season. Although …
Someone really, really needs to keep Slimane away from from the sequin bucket. Please. Sparkles are nice here and there, but there’s no good reason to go dipping every cotton-picking design in sequins. And even the boots? REALLY?
Why am I so hard on Hedi? Because Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent built his powerful fashion house by being hard on himself, and those who worked for him. There’s a reason designers charged with caring for the label prior to 2008 never stayed long: Yves didn’t consider them good enough. One of those designers, originally hired to handle menswear for the line in 1996 and subsequently let go, as were all the others, was Hedi Slimane. If anyone should understand the history and heritage of Yves Saint Laurent, it should be Hedi. Yet, instead of getting collections filled with elegance and refinement, we get sequins. Instead of genius and creativity, we get severe trend following.
If I look at this fall/winter collection, totally ignoring the label and the designer, my reaction would be … meh. The sequins and shimmery fabrics are a bit much, I don’t care who you are. The styles are very typical of what we’ve seen often this month. There’s the velvet, and the snake skin pattern, and the leopard print, and the moto jackets, and the tweed, and the touches of gold, and the micro mini skirts, and the capes, and the boots, and the leather tabs, and the fur skirt, and the plaid, and the cropped tuxedo jackets, and the applique, all of which leads me to this question: Is there anything in this collection that we’ve not seen at least a dozen times in other collections already?
Of course, there is. We’ve not seen anyone else use black tights under every piece and the set design, also done by Hedi, was nothing short of amazing. To be fair, I’ve not seen every collection in every city, but among major designers the premise still holds.
Such trend following means that for those who are still strong Saint Laurent followers this is a very attractive collection. Trends develop because people like the looks and it only stands to reason that a lot of people are going to like these looks. Never mind that all those sequins raise the price about 30%. Those who chase specific labels are typically willing to pay the extra costs of doing so. Retail sales are also going to get a considerable boost from the fact that there are not one, but two biopics of Yves Saint Laurent’s life being released this year. The first, which has the blessing and support of Yves’ lifelong partner Pierre Berge, is currently topping the box office in France and is scheduled for release in the US on March 21. The second, which has the support of Kering, the fashion conglomerate that owns the Saint Laurent label, is scheduled for October. While there is considerable argument as to which version is closer to the truth, the net result is inevitably a positive one for the brand. Strong sales keep Hedi sitting at the top.
I could also go into the whole Lolita look going on in this very youth-skewed collection, but I’m almost at 700 words already. You’ll stop reading soon.
Bottom line: this is not a horrible collection; it will sell well thanks in large part to the movies and what looks to be a very well crafted video-based ad campaign. I will happily give Hedi credit for being very clever in marketing the brand.
And congratulations to Grace Hartzel!