Walking into a Saint Laurent fashion show feels like walking onto the set of the brand’s ad campaign: the dark walls and stark lighting, the bare bones band’s-dressing-room interior. The skinny limbs in black jeans, the look-at-me-don’t-look-at-me sunglasses and hats. (This goes for the boys as well as the girls, by the way. Very egalitarian, like that.) The sense that you’ve walked into a party where everyone knows everyone else and is laughing together about the even-cooler party they were at last night, that you didn’t know about.
The thing is, of course, that walking into a Saint Laurent fashion show is indeed exactly like walking onto the set of a Saint Laurent advert, because creative director Hedi Slimane doesn’t just design clothes, he designs every aspect of the brand’s message, and he ensures it infuses everything. He shoots the advertising campaigns himself, the better to ensure they project his vision of Saint Laurent Paris, as the brand is now officially known.
Despite the newly accented Parisian status, there is a note of Americana in the LA dwelling Slimane’s Saint Laurent. This season had a gum-snapping, bad-girl Prom Queen in mind, with her net petticoats under short skirts, seamed stockings and
crayon-thick kohl. But all the permanent icons of the brand – biker jackets, slim grey blazers, trenches, vintage-look babydoll party dresses, high-heeled boots – were out in force. And with good reason: in the three years Slimane has been at the brand, it has doubled annual sales revenue, from 353 million euros in 2011 to 707 million euros in 2014. In the latest Kering financial report, the ‘permanent’ pieces in the Saint Laurent offering are singled out for strong performance.
Slimane’s Saint Laurent shows customarily start with a feat of virtuoso engineering (yet another reminder that this brand is about more than mere clothes) and this one was no exception. As the lights went down the floor between the front rows was hoisted on chains and pulleys, creating a raised catwalk supported by metal scaffolding. The aesthetic was closer to a Glastonbury festival stage, than to a Parisian salon. On the front row, Mark Ronson air-drummed to the soundtrack. This is fashion as performance, in every sense – and Slimane, like Ronson, keeps coming up with hits.