Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane faces critics in Paris

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Famed for his pencil-thin skinny tailoring, Slimane is credited with revolutionising menswear during his stint at Dior from 2000 to 2007.

Monday’s show at Paris’s Grand Palais, which his supporters hope will allow him to see off his critics, predominantly featured short hemlines and hotpants worn with sheer black tights and flat boots.

Looks at the show, on day seven of the nine-day Paris fashion week, included a sky blue silk dress covered in diagonal ruffles worn with an oversized green and black check jacket and a print dress with puff sleeves, white collar and front bow.

Coats included a grey duffle and black leather trench.

A pair of tiny hotpants, meanwhile, came teamed with a floral print blouse and pale pink fur jacket.

Initial reaction came from Betty Catroux, a muse of Yves Saint Laurent, who said: “He (Slimane) has completely understood the spirit of Saint Laurent,” adding that it was a “very young collection”.

Asked if it was different from his previous show, she said: “Yes, because the first was a homage (to Saint Laurent). This, was him.”

US actress Jessica Chastain was also enthusiastic. “That was very strong. I can’t wait to wear them,” she said.

Slimane’s androgynous, skinny look while with Dior achieved huge success and was copied by mass-market designers worldwide. It even spread to the rock world.

Stars Mick Jagger and Pete Doherty went on stage in Dior Homme, and even legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld shed 45 kilos (99 pounds) to be able to slide into a Slimane suit.

But Slimane’s October 2012 womenswear debut for Saint Laurent cannot be said to have gone smoothly.

From the start, journalists complained of high-handed treatment from public relations staff who informed them that Slimane would break with tradition and not take any questions backstage.

Then there was mystification at name changes that left them unsure whether to refer to Saint Laurent Paris, Saint Laurent or Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane.

On the night, many journalists were allowed only standing room at the back, leaving them unable to see the clothes.

Next came the lukewarm reviews from some of the industry’s most influential fashion editors.

Although many buyers and retailers expressed delight at the collection, trade journal Women’s Wear Daily called it “interesting to the point of odd” while Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, said it was “no triumph” and urged him to be more dynamic.

And New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, who was banned from the show following remarks made years earlier, reviewed it on the basis of digital images, concluding that it “lacked a new fashion spirit”.

In an illustration of how far offtrack media relations had strayed, Laura Craik, fashion editor of The Times of London wrote an open letter to Slimane which she ended with a plea not to be banned from the next show.

“because I really want to see it. We all do. We like you, even though you treat us like a bitch,” she wrote.

A blog and Twitter spat between Slimane and Horyn followed in which she revealed the reason she had not been invited to the show.

Slimane, she said, had taken exception to a 2004 article in which she wrote that “without Mr Simons’ template of slim tailoring and street casting there would not have been a Hedi Slimane — just as there would never have been a Raf Simons without Helmut Lang”.

Simons, like Slimane, is in the first year of a new job — in Simons’ case with Christian Dior.

Slimane responded by calling Horyn a “schoolyard bully” and “a bit of a stand-up comedian”.

He added: “As far as I’m concerned, she will never get a seat at Saint Laurent but might get a 2-for-1 at Dior” in a reference to her positive reviews of Simons’ work.

It all prompted Paul Deneve, the president and CEO of Saint Laurent Paris, to write a letter to Women’s Wear Daily accusing it of inaccurately summarising reaction as “comparatively tepid”.

And he complained about a subsequent article entitled “Paris Match” that he said had pitted Slimane against Simons, reducing his arrival at the company to a “banal rivalry”.

Paris fashion week is due to wrap up on Wednesday.

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