saint laurent's fall/winter 16 couture surprise

Amidst rumors of his exit from the house, Hedi sprung a surprise on us all by sharing the first fruits of La Maison Yves Saint Laurent. Throwing back to Yves' golden age, the 42 couture looks were full of Helmut Newton-esque sex appeal and glamour, red...

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Mar 8 2016, 3:05pm

​Photography Jason Lloyd Evans

Hedi Slimane's surprise collection for Saint Laurent last night was an exquisite love letter to the house, played out alongside the fierce youth aesthetic he is famous for.

Whispers that Slimane is departing Saint Laurent have been rippling through the industry for months now. His fall/winter 16 men's collection -- shown in LA in February -- was widely interpreted as his swan-song, a suspicion fueled by the notoriously shy designer's uncharacteristic post show bow. But last night's intimate salon show for select guests and close friends of the house proved that was not the case.

Shown in the bright white splendor of the meticulously renovated l'Hôtel Sénecterre -- the 17th century Saint Germain des-Prés mansion chosen by Hedi to be the Saint Laurent couture house -- the collection was a refreshingly intimate, stripped back presentation of pure fashion, a world away from Hedi's rock 'n' roll mega shows. Gone were the skinny rock kids on the front row, the elaborate stage sets, the pounding music and the cavernous, pitch black, womb like venue. There were no sections or seat numbers. Instead each guest's name was elegantly engraved onto a gold plaque, set within a black ballroom chair, with plush black velvet cushions. Editors were respectfully asked to turn their phones off, so the only sound was the flashing of the camera lenses and Bénédicte de Ginestous' genteel voice calling out the look numbers, just as she historically did for Yves Saint Laurent's couture collections from 1977 to 2002.

Simply titled 'La Collection de Paris,' each of the 42 looks paid homage to the codes of the house, while remaining ferociously loyal to Hedi's skinny rock 'n' roll aesthetic. There were hyper-elegant smoking jackets with plunging necklines and pinched shoulders. Mini skirts slashed just below the waist and 80s inspired sequin dresses that seductively skimmed the body like a second skin; their ruffled shoulders dramatically exaggerated into sculptural works of art. Pink and black sequinned catsuits elongated already elongated bodies, set off by sky high heels and wide belts clinching in already tiny waists. In the close proximity of the salon environment -- without the distraction of music or lights -- the clothes shone like objects of pure beauty. Whether it was Hedi's final farewell to the house, or Saint Laurent's first anticipated couture collection remains to be seen. And perhaps it doesn't matter. For twenty minutes, all that mattered was the beauty of the clothes. The art with which Hedi tailors his silhouette to the body -- the desirability of his aesthetic -- makes him one of the greatest designers of our generation, and the distinct vision he's brought to Saint Laurent in three short years is nothing short of remarkable.

As the show closed on a voluminous red fur jacket cut into a torso-spanning heart from behind we were forced to ask ourselves what does it all mean? Was it an Instagram friendly finale, or a playful gesture, on a farewell kiss?

Credits


Text Holly Shackleton
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans