Thoughts on Hedi Slimane

NB: Going to get back into the swing of blogging as it's kind of a prerequisite for my university course. I don't have the energy to write anything new right now, so here is something I wrote a few months ago that has been sitting in my drafts folder. 

Something I never thought I'd find myself saying: I'm really feeling Saint Laurent's AW14 looks. Instead of just discussing the collection nearly a whole season too late, I thought I'd take a broader (and, admittedly, overdue) look at Hedi Slimane and his rebranding of YSL. 

Slimane is that arsey, apathetic guy in your secondary school maths class who slouched at the back of the classroom and took the piss out of anyone whose cheekbones weren't as sharp as his (read: everyone). In short, he's not really a likeable guy, and there are hundreds of articles online that corroborate this. Since taking the reins at YSL in 2011, Slimane has completely rebranded the iconic fashion house. Although this news still doesn't sit well with the more obstinate of the brand's die-hards, the rebranding has been a commercial success for the brand we now know as Saint Laurent (also known, in some formats, as Saint Laurent Paris and Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane, but the rules about which name to use in different situations are too finely-cut for me to explain). 




It wasn't just the logo that changed, though, as the YSL woman was transformed too – in fact, she became a teenage girl. Some of the big fashion brands, although gawped at by women under 40 on computer screens worldwide, thrive on designing clothes for an older clientele. It sort of makes sense, because the average 25-year-old's salary couldn't dream of accommodating the cost of a Chanel dress, but it consequently alienates a good chunk of the young fashion fans who find most of their labelled goods on eBay. Designer diffusion lines aren't the perfect solution, but they're a reasonable middle ground, providing a high fashion fix – usually with a younger aesthetic as well as a lower price – for rich kids and 20-somethings who are beginning to find their feet financially. Since Slimane started ripping Saint Laurent's 'exclusive' nature to shreds, you would be forgiven for thinking that the mainline clothes are diffusion line clothes. I maintain that his SS13 was simply an artful culmination of scraps from bargain bins in Lipsy, River Island and a fancy dress shop; a lot of the clothes looked like things you see misguided drunk girls wearing in Tiger Tiger, and overall it was very poor form from Slimane.

A lot of people booted off about Raf Simons when he started out at Dior. Being a massive fan of his work, I never understood it. When fashion critics bashed Simons for 'ruining Dior', all he was really doing was stepping back from Galliano's garishness (which, personally, I always hated, but I'm in the minority). When they bashed Slimane, however, for 'ruining YSL', it really did seem like he was ruining the brand. Before the rebranding, YSL catered for moneyed and elegant women, so it was difficult to see how these sophisticated ladies would be able to digest these tacky new pieces draped over doe-eyed, skinny-skinny girls. It wasn't just the existing clientele who Hedi alienated; it would seem that journalists are blacklisted by Saint Laurent (i.e. not allowed to the shows) if they show any inclination to not bow down at Slimane's throne, and runway critics, even if no longer allowed to write anything critical, have been pushed off their front row seats to make room for the designer's celebrity clique. 



Pretentious and stubborn he may be – and there's also the question of how long he can peddle his distinct, grungy 'I'm with the band' look before the concept becomes even more tired than it already is – but, even in the creative industries, it's the turnover that really counts. And Saint Laurent sells well. Although a lot of Slimane's stuff looks like it belongs in Topshop, about 50% of my wardrobe is from Topshop. And the fact that I can imagine someone wearing one of his dresses to a Koosday night, even though they're more likely to be worn to a black tie event, isn't exactly a bad thing; although he seems like the most arrogant personality in an industry full of arrogance, you could never accuse his designs of being pretentious. 

For further reading, I'd highly recommend this article by Cathy Horyn, in which she considers why Slimane, by offering clothes that are commercial rather than conceptual, might have had the right idea all along.

On magazines/Leith Clark etc


Girls and fashion magazines go hand in hand, right? So there's probably nothing too unusual, then, about the hundreds of glossies that I have diligently stacked, in chronological order, on my bookshelves and all over my bedroom floor. The first issue of Vogue I bought was the February 2007 issue; I vividly remember devouring it on a long car journey home from a dental appointment. Fendi pieces in fluro-pink mesh and Jil Sander's sunshine yellow shirts and sequinned skirts served a welcome distraction after the pain of having my first-ever filling — it was a day of firsts, I suppose — and I was transported to a world a million miles away from my nondescript life in the Yorkshire Dales, from which the only fashion knowledge I'd gained was brand awareness, i.e. I knew about Hunter, Barbour, Burberry, Aquascutum and Mulberry, and, well, that's about it.

OK, I'm lying slightly - I'd developed an interest in fashion prior to picking up Vogue, but I'm not exactly sure how or why. I faintly remember Nanna giving me old copies of of Tatler to flip through and cut pictures out of; to me the ladies in Tatler were so elegant, and their pretty outfits looked even better once accessorised with glitter-glue and stuck next to pictures of puppies and cupcakes. Eventually I clocked on to the whole fashion thing, started 'borrowing' Nanna's Vivienne Westwood scarves and bought my first copy of Vogue. Seven years later, I'm an underweight, chain-smoking, Diet Coke-drinking, flatform-wearing girl with body image issues, constant blisters and a pair of oversized glasses constantly weighing my nose down. Take from that what you will – all I'll say is that although there are as many pros as there are cons with women's magazines, when your brain hasn't formed properly, the cons often outweigh the pros.

I'm not necessarily saying that reading fashion magazines makes you hate yourself – for me, depression and anxiety issues already have those bases covered – but they definitely don't do any favours for your self esteem. Or to your bank balance, for that matter; who hasn't flicked through Elle's pages and suddenly needed a pair of shoes that, 5 minutes previously, they didn't know existed? By 'needed' I mean 'wanted', as in the classic fickle fashion-lover's quandary of having overdrawn your overdraft but yet feeling that you must buy the new 'must have' (read: fad) item lest you lose your cool factor overnight and spend the rest of your life wearing sweatpants and Uggs.

Most fashion magazines are like a bad boyfriend; they make you feel insecure, but at the same time you love them and, even if you do have to shut yourself away from them for a while, you always come crawling back in the end, wanting more. But then you meet a nice guy who doesn't treat you half as badly, and you question why you ever stuck around with that selfish prick for so long. And it's like that with magazines: once you find something smart, funny and aesthetically pleasing amongst a sea of shit, you don't look back. Et voici, Violet: my latest magazine obsession.

Violet is the new brainchild of the incredible Leith Clark (my love for whom has no bounds so, yes, what I am writing is totally biased, but whatevs). It is a magazine for girls, made by girls, celebrating girls. And it is everything a fashion magazine should be, with minimal advertisements, intelligent writing by intelligent women, thought-provoking features and, of course, dreamy editorials.

Although I love the clothes and the styling in Violet, it was really all the writing that captured my attention. Until reading the magazine, I had no idea who Meghan Kelly was, but now I can safely say that she is brilliant; she contributed a few short stories to the magazine which I found really touching, as well as relatable, with their often painful realness. The best of these stories is the longest, How Far to Go, a story of a fading romance and the confused sort of love that most of us are probably familiar with. Clark seems to have a knack for scoring the most bizarrely brilliant artists, tastemakers and creative legends to feature in her magazines; because they weren't with 'the usual suspects' found in other fashion magazines, the interviews in Lula (Clark's last magazine baby, which she left to give birth to Violet) were always something I loved and, thankfully, Violet also provides an abundance of lengthy question-and-answer sessions with the sort of people who make you want to live your life more riskily and freely: Brit Marling, So Yong Kim and Molly Parkin are just some of the subjects interrogated within this debut issue's pages. Another reason to buy the magazine would be the extract from Hadley Freeman's latest work, Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies – this made me howl and I loved it so much that I downloaded the book on my Kindle as soon as I'd finished reading.

I could write a million more words about how A+++ beaut this magazines is, but I don't want to spoil it for you, so, yeah, go and buy it basically. I got mine from Magazine Shack. Kind of missing the days when R D Franks (R.I.P) was still alive and well, but I guess it's good that I can order obscure titles online now as I hardly go down to London any more.

Favourite collections: Christopher Kane

I haven't had much chance to write anything detailed on this blog for a while, so as my writing comeback of sorts I thought that it would make sense to write about Christopher Kane, as his designs (and Raf Simons’) were what sparked my interest in fashion in the first place. If I had more time, I’d write an article on all 23 of Kane’s womenswear collections (maybe just 22, actually, because SS08 didn’t do anything for me), but instead I’ve had to go through the painful process of creating a really tight edit. The collections below are those which speak to me the most, evoking happy memories as well as general awe. It’s no great coincidence that I’ve warmed to the spring collections more; while for my own wardrobe I favour monochromatic safeness, I love looking at beautiful clothes in the kind of colours I’d never be able to get away with wearing. 

SPRING/SUMMER 2012


I wrote heaps about this collection ages ago, but it deserves another mention. SS12 had triumphs aplenty, but Kane’s offerings were definitely the greatest. Artists in any field shouldn’t ever have to rein in their creativity, but, these days, fashion designers (particularly those heading up smaller, less financially-stable brands) are under pressure to create clothes with mass-market appeal. If you’re a fresh-faced designer whose income barely covers the rent of your dingy London studio, let alone the materials for your craft, you need your clothes to sell if you want your brand to expand. It’s not rocket science; producing clothes for esoteric interests doesn’t cut it unless you are Hedi Slimane, i.e. rolling in it (in which case you’re absolutely fine — continue to make clothes for your friends in bands that everyone else got over years ago — if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters). So, what made this collection stand out to me was Kane’s ability to pull off what very few designers can: the perfect balance of the commercial and the conceptual. The white shirts, cricket jumpers, boxy schoolgirl skirts and denim pieces are all accessible pieces — women all over can emulate Kane SS12 looks with ease simply by reaching to the back of their wardrobes — and yet there are some elements that just scream ‘expensive’ and ‘creative’ in the way that only runway looks can. The killer cuts, the aluminum-infused organza, the exquisitely detailed embellishment and sequin-lined appliqué… you can’t buy this sort of design complexity in Topshop (not even in the Boutique section, no, even though the brains behind it strive to emulate this sort of class). 
                   
SPRING/SUMMER 2007
I like this collection for sentimental reasons. SS07 was the season when I first became infatuated with fashion, particularly the young British fashion scene, so please don't think I have an affinity for highlighter-coloured frocks. When you see some perma-tanned party girl spewing up over her fluro pink bandage dress on the Diamond Strip, sticky-soled Office platforms in hand, do you ever wonder if her bold sartorial choices are some sort of working class homage to Kane’s debut collection? Me neither — when she picked up said dress in Quiz that morning, the thought probably never crossed her mind — but it does make you consider this collection’s influence on evening dressing. I loved the Swarvoski detailing on the pieces — a burst of crystals on plain fabric is something of a favourite of mine, having seen it implemented perfectly on a Marios Schwab dress that took centre stage on the cover of Dazed and Confused a few years back. Oh, and that Kane and Versus collaboration? Just look to this collection to see why Donatella picked him to bring new life to her diffusion line.

SPRING/SUMMER 2010

Like most British girls, my first encounter with gingham was the classic John Lewis easy-iron dress that was a welcome alternative, in the warmer months at primary school, to a black skirt or trousers. In my early teens I would make my own simple 60s-style shift dresses, cutting up gingham cloth in red and blue; it was fine to wear gingham even at that awkward age as, with bundles of innocence coupled with stick-thin limbs and doe eyes, I was deemed 'cute' and 'adorable'. If I wear gingham now, even though my chest is still as flat as the school desks I associate with the fabric, it can feel a bit Lolita-esque. Kane's tackling of  girlie checks was perfect, as he managed to brush away any smutty connotations, instead leaving us with the perfect balance of the pretty and the peverse – a 'good girl gone bad' look, if you like (or bad girl gone good?).

AUTUMN/WINTER 2010


Another fusion of sweet and seedy – seemingly a combination the designer thrives on playing about with – Kane's AW10 offering was a triumph. Admittedly the formula was pretty simple: take some black leather, some black lace, some vampy patent leather lace-up heels and you get, er, something that Rihanna might wear. Throw in some floral embroidery, though, and suddenly 'good' girls like Emma Watson want in too. Not to say that this was any sort of slapdash appliqué job; Kane gave the dying art form of hand-embroidery a new lease of life and, with his daisies, roses, poppies and wildflowers trickling just-so over otherwise sexually-charged PVC, lace and leather, it just looked so right. However, my favourite bits in this collection were the closing pieces, which were embroidered, equally as delicately, with crystals.

SPRING/SUMMER 2014


I could happily wax lyrical about all of Kane's collections, and you can find my thoughts on his other shows elsewhere on this blog. I was meaning to write about the SS14 collection as soon as I saw it, as it made me swoon in a big way, but I was so busy with work and other real world stuff and never found the time. 
Not that I really need to draw your attention to this collection, anyway, as it went down a storm with the fashion press and certain pieces (read: the logo sweats and flower motifs) have been rehashed to death by the high street. Fair play, I say, it is so dreamy after all. I hate to quote The Devil Wears Prada but, "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking" – though one does imagine Miranda Priestley would eat her words if she saw Kane's take on this ever-enduring spring theme. Elsewhere in London, Mary Katrantzou made her florals embellished and Eudon Choi's were wallpaper-esque, smattered over biker jackets. Christopher Kane, meanwhile, went back to school, taking his botanical imagery straight out of biology textbooks (well, at least someone found them useful...). This resulted in beautiful floral embellishments, complete with blackboard-style pointers and annotations. There was something subtly sexual about the whole affair, too, thanks to the obvious parallels between the dissected flowers and a woman's anatomy. Besides the standout pieces, there were some fluffed-up, spray-painted dresses with holographic tinsel trims, which I really liked. Further evidence of PPR's investment in Kane's brand shined through subtly, too; the now ubiquitous statement sweaters were highly commercial, lower-priced items that were snapped up straight away by young fashion bloggers everywhere, and the slinky evening gowns in silk satin showed a new, more polished side to the London-based designer – dresses like that would look more at home at the shows in Paris and Milan. But, then again, Kane is now no longer 'one to watch' and is up there amongst the big-name designers, so it's not uncomfortable to see him produce such exquisite, sophisticated clothes. 

tba SS14

I had to share the tba SS14 lookbook with you as it is one of the most gorgeous sets of photographs I've ever seen. The photographer, Masha Mel, has certainly captured Brighton beach at its most resplendent; the whole thing smacks of a Lula editorial (R.I.P), which is probably why I love it so much, and makes me feel vaguely positive about spending another summer in Britain.

The collection is entitled 'A Love Letter to Brighton', the designer's hometown. Brighton is beautiful, creative and colourful, hence why the collection embodies a similar mood. There are obvious 60s vibes in the clothes, though 70s influences seem to have come into play as well - note the technicolour silk frills, flare trousers and brash, Liberty-esque floral prints. One of the things I love about this brand is the way it is so reasonably priced compared to its competitors — the tweed pieces are very Carven-esque and the scallop-edged silks could be seen as a cheaper alternative to something similarly swooshy from Simone Rocha — though, unless we're talking eBay or sample sales, I can't afford tba, I would love to invest in something from this collection, preferably the Jamily dress or the Saara dress (I've got the look for the latter locked down as I'm pretty sure I've got the same earrings as the model is wearing in the lookbook). 


tba's SS14 collection is available online at www.ilovetba.com. 

February gloom





Today wasn't great, but these pictures from the latest online edition of the Topshop magazine have perked me up; I love the styling and the moody feel. 

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