why is hedi slimane so inspired by la?
As Hedi takes Saint Laurent out of Paris and to west coast USA for his autumn/winter 16 show this week, we investigate LA’s hold on Slimane.
On the 10th of February, Hedi Slimane will be showing his latest men's collection for Saint Laurent in Los Angeles. Whilst it's become somewhat of a thing for the Parisian houses to show their cruise or pre-collections in far flung locations, from Louis Vuitton showing in Palm Springs to Dior in Tokyo, this is the first time a show with a place on the regular schedule has been moved in such a way. This is interesting for two reasons; firstly, it adds fuel to the rumours that Slimane's departure from the house is imminent. Whatever, designers are always leaving their jobs, without the world at large noticing. More interesting is Slimane's fascination with LA, which has largely shaped his collections for Saint Laurent. What could he find so interesting about the city that high fashion forgot?
The answer to this is perhaps that Slimane isn't very interested in high fashion at all. The template he set during his reign at Dior Homme was to look at what indie kids were wearing at gigs in London and reproduce it in unimaginably luxurious fabrics on the catwalk. It made Dior Homme the most desirable name in men's fashion, as for the first time in awhile you could buy really expensive clothes that didn't either make you look like your Dad or an 80s fashion casualty (both of which could admittedly be some people's Dads). Men and women alike went mad for his super slim tailoring and noirish aesthetic. Slimane's finale at the label however vaguely coincided with the demise of the London scene he'd so faithfully chronicled - no one was listening to Razorlight or Babyshambles anymore, and haven't since. Sensing a sea change, the designer high tailed it to LA, probably the furthest place mentally from London that you could get.
The one thing they do have in common is they are cities full of great bands and music scenes. Heavy metallers, hardcore punks, and hippies, have all found homes in LA, and with them all are the fashion moments they created; whether it was Joni's other worldly Laurel Canyon look, or the desolate punk aesthetic of X and Black Flag. In the last few decade the city's experienced a musical resurgence, with bands like Ariel Pink and No Age colonising the airwaves, alongside a new generation of musicians and future style icons like The Garden, Staz Lindes and her band The Paranoyds, and the aptly named LA Witch.
Into this Slimane plunged, chronicling wasted looking teens and bronzed surfers alike in his relentless black and white photography diary, hedislimane.com. There's been a tendency to ridicule LA for its velour tracksuits and Chihuahuas - something brilliantly parodied by Steven Meisel in his Hollywood Style editorial for the January 2005 issue of Vogue Italia, featuring a vast cast of models sporting high rise thongs and dubious footwear. I mean, Juicy Couture happened, but there was never a band with massive guitars jamming with 'Juicy' written across their asses (perhaps there should have been). LA's young denizens were cool before Slimane got there, with their ripped jeans and dirty bleached hair, but his camera made them only more so, aspirationally grubby and fucked up rather than just plain grubby and fucked up. Into this landscape, he persuaded Saint Laurent to let him move his design team.
Slimane's first show for spring/summer 13 tackled one of LA's grand dames - Stevie Nicks. The shawled one has spent a good chunk of her life hiding in a mansion she calls 'Tara', presumably drying out between tours and muttering at crystals. Her high gothic, dramatic style translated perfectly to the runway, with models emerging in giant brimmed hats, flowing robes and tassels. This was a great foil to the trademark YSL look of pussy bow blouses, Le Smoking jackets and perilous heels. It's a cliché, but Saint Laurent himself was the first to put the street on the catwalk, whether it be the Rive Gauche look he was surrounded by in Paris, or the spring/summer 71 show inspired by hookers in the Bois de Boulogne. The trashy and the tragic, the famous and the fucked are hallmarks of the LA look too, and thus it makes for a happy pairing.
Since that first outing, Slimane's continued to mine LA style to great effect. Ditching the big hats, the shows have become relatively straightforward - great jeans in various states of disrepair, leather jackets and Cuban heels. Slip or mini dresses for women, worn under fur coats. It's the kind of post fashion, dressed down look the city excels at, in evidence most at the Chateau Marmont, the iconic dingey hotel where you can pretend not to be seen. Hedi's work is also firmly rooted in vintage, another LA obsession, nowhere else having quite as many vintage shops, alongside the iconic Rose Bowl, the monthly second hand extravaganza, with clothes as far as the eye can see. Similar to his work at Dior, Slimane isn't afraid of transposing what he sees around him directly onto the catwalk.
He's also used the musicians of Los Angeles to great effect, most obviously in his Music Project campaign for the brand - amongst others Joni Mitchell, Marilyn Manson, Beck and Ariel Pink have starred, looking pensive in his tailoring. Oh and also long term muse Courtney Love, who'll be forever associated with the Malibu of the Hole song. He's also repeatedly shot Orange County punk band The Garden, who look suitably Slimane with their etiolated limbs and tousled hair.
LA feels like somewhere at the edge of the world, and draws misfits and burnouts from all over it. That one of these happened to be the ex creative director of a French fashion house is kind of funny but not that surprising - anyone who's interested in youth culture is currently looking west, whether it be to the golden Kardashian-Jenner youth, or to the kids who come out at night. What makes his shows in Paris so interesting is the tension between his street aesthetic and the high fashion environment it's shown in. It'll be interesting to see how his look fares once returned to the place of its birth.
Text Jack Sunnucks