Saint Laurent Cleans Up

With upstart sizzle, the Saint Laurent revamp by Hedi Slimane has dumbfounded most of the fashion establishment since his debut for the brand last year. The cry of style critics—”What’s this?” “How could he?”—and the inevitable comparisons to tacky masstige have gone hand in hand with a personal endorsement from Kate Moss; applause from YSL “intimes” like Pierre Bergé and Betty Catroux; Met Gala photo ops by Kim Gordon, Greta Gerwig, and Sky Ferreira (with Slimane himself notably absent); as well as a thumbs-up from the International Herald’s Tribune‘s Suzy Menkes, who explained quite succinctly: “He (Slimane) wants to take the codes of the old YSL and go back to the days before Mr. Saint Laurent was identified with the thing he most hated, ‘the bourgeoisie.'”

A recent visit to Saint Laurent’s Paris showroom to preview Fall/Winter 2013 confirms the favorable reports. The new Saint Laurent is YSL in spirit—particularly in the black-on-black leather Mondrian patched dresses (each a unique construction and an ode to YSL’s 1965 White Mondrian tableau pieces), florals with pussycat bows, powderpuff pink teddy furs, and clutch bags that riff on the old YSL logo, which Slimane has apparently not abolished entirely.

The latest Saint Laurent news follows suit, albeit in a more Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vein: the brand has created costumes for Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories LP tour, unveiled at Coachella and outfitted Keith Richards for the Rolling Stones’ current 50 Years and Counting excursion. (Silk scarves, t-shirts, a vest, and waiter’s racer jacket from the Richards collection will be available to buy online and in-store in June.)

For the recently opened Saint Laurent Paris flagship at 53 avenue Montaigne, Slimane has spread out the largest selection of the house’s new goods with an accent on the SL permanent collection—basics that will be in-store year-round—from smoking jackets to the new signature duffel bag, thick interlocking bracelets, and jeans. It’s all displayed on two levels, over nearly 3,000 square feet, decked out in black-veined white marble, extra-clear glass and mirrors, poured concrete, quilted black leather, and nickel-plated brass bars with a wall of screens to project the latest Saint Laurent imagery (shot, naturally, by Slimane).

The shop’s stark look is an ode to the minimalist style and philosophy of the Union des Artistes Modernes. Founded by Robert Mallet-Stevens in the 1930s, and better known as French Art Deco, the group is celebrated for its clean-edged style, once favored by Yves Saint Laurent himself.

The UAM’s battle cry, emphasizing design over decoration, does seem apropos for Slimane’s new, old Saint Laurent: “Rise up against everything that looks rich, against whatever is well made, and against anything inherited from grandmother.”