Writ small on the card on everyone’s seat at the Saint Laurent show were the words “Psych Rock’s New Rising.” A phrase pregnant with promise, and every element of the performance was exhaustively calibrated by Hedi Slimane to deliver on it. By now, we know all those elements by heart. The invitation arrives as a little black book of a California artist’s work (today, Bruce Conner). The soundtrack is a contribution from an obscure West Coast sixties-revivalist band (the wide-hatted Mystic Braves were an aural and visual complement to the new collection). The front row is a cross-legged tribe of Hedi’s Kids, wide-eyed disciples of his fashion shamanism. The set is an extravagant feat of futuristic engineering, with sci-fi lighting effects. And the clothes? Well, they’re the costumes for Slimane’s piece of theater.
Until now, it has felt like Slimane was a passionate fanboy. That passion had become quite persuasive; the sales figures are more than enough evidence. But here it all went a little predictable and chilly. There was a sense of boxes to be ticked—Little Bugle Boy jacket, poncho, sheepskin vest, army surplus, embroidered jeans, amulets, snakeskin boots, garage band—rather than an unleashing of the beast of psych rock. Of course, Slimane’s collections for Saint Laurent are notoriously divisive, so those items will no doubt have plenty of fervent admirers, too.
One member of Slimane’s cast of characters stood out for his black-suit/white-shirt garb, incongruous amid the scrawny psych rockers and their ladies of the canyon. He looked like the archetypal wheeler-dealer band manager who’d end up milking his young protégés for all they’re worth. His cynical presence added to the theatricality. So did the shine of a striped lamé jacket, the sparkle of a glittery afghan, the embroidered poppy that trailed down a jacket. It was enough to make you wish Slimane would hurry up and get to glam rock on his trawl through the annals of popular music.
Speaking of possible futures, the most intriguing thing in the designer’s cryptic show notes was a special thanks to trance-punk artist Arrington de Dionyso. Maybe Slimane has surprises in store after all.