The big guns always come out to play in Paris for Men’s Fashion Week. Unlike London, with its focus on new and emerging talent making the most noise, and New York, whose men’s fashion week is still very much a work in progress, Paris relies heavily on marquee names, and designers who design with true fashion lovers in mind.
In many ways, attending shows in Paris – or scrolling through photos on Style.com, as the case may be – becomes an exercise is learning about what designers believe luxury consumers will want to wear next season.
In the case of Hedi Slimane and Saint Laurent Paris, the answer is…only slightly different from what he predicted shoppers would want to wear last season.
Slimane’s overhaul of Saint Laurent has been centered on music and the lifestyle associated with specific musical subcultures since the beginning. For Spring 2016, he honed in on “contemporary California surf music culture,” which, it turns out, means exactly what you would think it would mean: desperately skinny trousers, distressed shirts and sneakers that have been beaten do death, and some acid-washed denim thrown in for good measure. I haven’t spent much time within West Coast surf music circles; if Kurt Cobain is still their everlasting icon, it seems like a feasible reconstruction of what those guys actually pick up off the floor and step into each day. But, make no mistake: it costs a lot of money to look this cheap if the clothing you’re stepping into is SLP.
To criticize Slimane’s vision for Saint Laurent, to call it too literal, or to hope he will one day find a new muse – like one who doesn’t look as though he’d arrived in Paris straight from a methadone clinic – is as pointless as wishing he’d consistently cast a model of color or two in his runway shows. It’s just not how he rolls. And as long as the shoppers keep snatching up his designs, there’s no referendum to make any changes.
Dries Van Noten also wore his inspiration on his sleeve this season, although in this case, that can be taken literally. Oversized images of Marilyn Monroe – some blown-up to just this side of abstraction – were repeated throughout the collection on shirts, pants, jackets and ponchos and even a full suit. And while images of the ill-fated actress are surely some of the most reproduced in all of pop history, there were enough other points of inspiration to keep those not interested in Marilyn engaged, notably a Schiaparelli-flavored lobster and palm tree motif. Dries Van Noten’s clothing has often been described as louche, and it’s hard to find a better word to describe the voluminous pants and robes that seem tailor made for a life of leisure, maybe even in California, if the palm tress and actresses are to be thematically on the nose.
It’s safe to say that Van Noten’s California is miles away from Saint Laurent’s, separated by at least a few hedges and iron gates. The shoppers who wear them both, though, are assuredly on the same side.