A Sock Hop, Workwear Frills, and the Saint Laurent Saga

Published October 2, 2012

Olympia Le-Tan makes wittily embroidered book bags inspired by oddball themes from space travel to Italian cinema, Betty Crocker cooking kitsch and the annals of medicine. But who knew that behind the zany clutches was someone who could dream up an entire wardrobe? In her second season, Le-Tan turned Paris’s Théâtre de la Madeleine into a dream of Harlem’s Apollo for a collection inspired by ’60s girl groups and the annals of jazz, with choreography and casting from I Could Never Be a Dancer. Le-Tan’s clothes, a rollicking high-school sweetheart assemblage of full-skirted summer dresses, front-slit short-shorts, pedal pushers, flirty shell tops, and baseball blousons in stripes with musical notes accompanied a ’60s teen hop troupe of black girls in socks and Weston loafers who line-danced and lip-synched to golden oldies hits from girl legends like the Shangri-Las, the Supremes, the Shirelles, and the Dixie Cups—with a personal appearance by the great Veronica Yvette Bennett, a.k.a. Ronnie of the Ronettes. Bags inspired by jazz faves and irresistible hourglass styles revamped from the early 1960s prove Le-Tan can generate fresh style excitement with verve for her generation of quirky femme fatales.

Sacai’s complex weaves of diverse pieces in a single look respond to the contemporary urge to be in more than one place simultaneously. This season, Chitose Abe’s juxtaposition meshed femininity and workwear showing in a feather-edged parka, sweatshirt/blouse hybrids, and transparent green lace and slate gray for one dancing-at-the-office dress. The lace Perfecto jacket with a peplum made an appearance, and the rest was a compendium of everything tomboys and party girls like to wear: uniform stripe cottons, loose cardigans, layering, and silky frills.

All the hoopla building up to Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent served nothing more than pre-show headlines. What counts is the clothes, not the inevitable one-upmanship between designers, a show’s fancy hydraulic ceiling effects, or the politically charged placement of editors, stars and les intimes de Yves Saint Laurent.

Slimane ushered in a revolution in menswear in the slim, young collections he designed for Dior Homme a while back, but past triumphs don’t count either. And all he needs now is a bit more time than to develop his ideas for women.

Slimane’s Saint Laurent girl is a rock chick starting with the first look: a sharply cut smoking jacket, hip-slung skinny pants, limp bow blouse, cut-out vest and floppy hat, which recall Marianne Faithfull—or, more precisely, Irina Lazareanu channeling Marianne. And what followed—an enormous 67-look roll-out—was more of the same take on the 1970s. Within the murky-colored mix were sahariennes, that YSL trademark lace-up safari tunic, shadowy chiffon peasant blouses; beaded bed jackets, and voluminous caftans with capes. One expected more, but give him time.