PARIS -- L.A.-based Hedi Slimane, the most controversial designer working today, threw the fashion world into a tizzy with his first two collections for the storied French house of Saint Laurent.
And he did it again Monday night in Paris.
After paying homage to 1970s rock goddesses and 1990s grunge for his first two women's runway outings, he showed a spring 2014 collection that seemed to be deliberately tacky, and elicited yet another collective "Huh?"
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The inspiration: It's hard to tell, because Slimane does not really speak to the press. But obviously, the Saint Laurent archives were a rich source.
Key pieces: Lip prints, originally a homage to 1960s Pop artists like Andy Warhol, appeared on a wrap dress and sequin top. An olive drab military jacket, worn over a leather miniskirt, was a reminder of how Saint Laurent took clothes out of the Army Navy store and elevated them to couture. Several iterations of Le Smoking also came down the runway, some with sheer blouses, others with skinny ties that brought to mind the slim line menswear aesthetic Slimane himself created at Dior Homme in the early aughts.
But mostly, the broad-shouldered, wedge-shaped jackets, super-short black leather skirts, one-shoulder sequin tops and zebra stripe skirts, all worn with glitter ankle socks tucked into kitten heels, seemed to be deliberately cheap-looking and garish.
The verdict: It was as if Slimane were trying to channel Saint Laurent at his most subversive when he presented the 1971 "Vichy Chic" collection of 1940s-inspired garb that evoked strippers and drag queens.
Here, the clothes definitely had a Frederick's of Hollywood quality. (It's worth pointing out that the L.A.-based designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte evoked a similar vibe with their spring runway collection shown at New York Fashion Week. Angelenos are creating outsider fashion all the way.)
Even the models were behaving badly -- less dutiful mannequins and more petulant teenagers, hellbent on stomping to the end of the runway, turning, and high-tailing it out of the Grand Palais as fast as possible.
What about the clothes? Well, what about them. They weren't much. But this week in Paris we've seen plenty of shows where the clothes have been beside the point. (Rick Owens' step dance ode to joy for one, and Comme des Garcons' psychological assault on the senses with whiplash-inducing looks and scratchy, stopping-and-starting music for another.)
It's obvious Slimane is thumbing his nose at the fashion industry, but perhaps he's also thumbing his nose at the haute bourgeoisie.
Any hedge fund manager's wife can sling a $10,000 Birkin bag over her wrist and buy good taste. But buying bad taste? That's not your mother's couture.
Fashion needs provocateurs. There aren't many of them left. I just hope that in addition to looking to Yves for inspiration, Slimane also starts to develop a design vocabulary of his own.