Saint Laurent Bets On Authenticity, And Wins

Hedi Slimane's S/S16 collection for Saint Laurent is surf, sex and sedition power-packed into a highball of attitude, modeled by youths who just didnít give a damn.

BY Janie Cai | Mar 16, 2016 | Fashion

All Images by Lea Colombo for Saint Laurent

Fashion is a high-stakes game. Just ask multi–billion dollar players like LVMH and Kering and observe the way a single ‘It’ bag or ‘must-have’ pair of shoes, jacket or accessory can suddenly become the golden calf upon which a significant portion of revenue for a brand is built. It’s not surprising that everyone’s looking for the elusive formula that both provokes desirability and convinces consumers to part with their dollars season after season.

That is why Hedi Slimane's stint at Saint Laurent has been extremely impressive. Most newly appointed creative directors, upon taking the hot seat at a long-established fashion house, would draw on the archives to create (for the first collection at least) a respectable series of looks that pays homage to the very brand and to continue to cultivate the loyalty of the existing client base.

Not so for Slimane whose first collection—one that has been discussed extensively on various platforms when it first showed—instantly created a divide amongst the fashion world. Think of it as style Marmite, you either loved it or you didn’t.

But Slimane recognised exactly what the new generation of spenders wanted—authenticity. That came in the form of tailored jackets painstakingly embellished with beading and sequins, patchwork coats and broken-in suede jackets. The scores of time were emulated—some fabrics were faded and distressed, occasional edges left frayed and raw, but in such a way that the construction and quality of each piece was still top-notch.

Slimane had earlier reorganised the tailoring department of the atelier, bringing it back to the roots of the house and its heritage, and using that as the bedrock upon which he built his interpretation of Saint Laurent. His collections might be styled to resemble a rollick through a back alley thrift store by disaffected youths but this was exactly what, in the current state of our style environment, carried currency with a whole new generation of potential customers. It combined the aesthetic of authenticity with the production expertise of a maison that had created couture for over half a century. And by the second season, the kids (and a large number of adults) were lapping it up.

For S/S16, Slimane has taken the indie glam rock of A/W15 and brought it to the coast, specifically the West Coast, where he dished out Californian-inspired surfer vibes amidst a backdrop of psychedelic twirling lights and surly-faced teens. But the models stalking down the runway (which seemed more like an incredible rock concert than a fashion show) weren’t just any kids; they included the progeny of old-school Hollywood icons. Cue Dylan Brosnan, Charlie Oldman and Jack Kilmer—the last of whom is also the S/S16 Saint Laurent campaign face, together with Danish breakout star Klara Kristin.

Key items from the Saint Laurent collection include a teddy jacket with an LA Boulevard-style palm tree sunset, patchwork leather jackets layered over untucked checked shirts, skinny knit scarves coiled around pale necks and superslim-fit jeans. Leather and canvas sneakers were distressed to resemble shoes that looked like they had spent the entire summer pumping half-pipes on the deck. Everything was new, but the point was nothing looked it. The Saint Laurent of S/S16 was surf, sex and sedition power-packed into a highball of attitude, modeled by youths who just didn’t give a damn. With a combination like that, Slimane’s certainly hit his home run.

Check out the rest of the Saint Laurent S/S16 collection here.