The City of Light touched down in the City of Angels on Wednesday night in the form of the Saint Laurent Los Angeles show, a runway presentation of the French luxury label's fall 2016 menswear collection and Part 1 of its women's ready-to-wear collection.
It marked the first time the Kering-owned brand has mounted a full-scale fashion show in the L.A. area, where artistic director Hedi Slimane has lived since 2008 and the label's atelier has been located since 2012. While the event was a look at what will be hitting retail six to nine months from now, the show's timing — just days before the Grammy Awards unspool here Monday — and the choice of the storied Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard as the venue, gave the whole affair a retro rock 'n' roll concert vibe long before the first looks hit the runway.
The notoriously press-averse designer declined, through his representatives, to talk about why he chose to stage the over-the-top sartorial spectacle in L.A. — especially on the evening before New York Fashion Week was set to kick off 3,000 miles and a red-eye flight away — but the city has long been a source of inspiration for him.
Slimane has cast many a model off the streets and beaches of Southern California, including celebrity offspring such as Jack Kilmer (son of Val), Dylan Brosnan (son of Pierce) and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's teenage son Dylan, who was featured in a black-and-white video clip released before the show.
Hamish Bowles, Justin Bieber, Demi Moore, Lenny Kravitz and daughter Zoë Kravitz, Sam Smith, Jane Fonda and Sylvester Stallone were in attendance, as were Joan Jett, Lee Daniels, Zac Efron and Liz Goldwyn, who mingled with Linda Ramone and Anderson.
Ellen DeGeneres arrived with wife Portia de Rossi. And fresh from her lauded Super Bowl appearance, Lady Gaga, almost unrecognizable in a blond wig, sunglasses and a gold sequin jacket, crossed the floor to chat with Courtney Love, causing a pop of flash bulbs.
Oh, did we mention there were clothes?
Given the lineup of musical talent that played the after-party — Beck and Jett to name just two — it would be easy to frame the Saint Laurent event as a music festival with a stylish opening act. And it was a tribute concert of sorts, one that paid homage to both the 50th anniversary of Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche ready-to-wear collection and the Los Angeles music scene. But the French luxury brand is in the business of selling clothes, and judging by the parade of nostalgia-inducing velvet, brocade and sequined pieces that strutted across the Palladium's runway in the round, business is about to be very good indeed.
The collection was just as rock 'n' roll as the location, with bandleader coats, jackets with guitar head silhouette details at the cuffs and a dress with an all-over musical note print plucked directly from the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche design archives.
Slimane described the collection of some 93 pieces as "mostly unisex" in the show notes, and many of the menswear pieces mined the androgynous look he pioneered during his first stint at Yves Saint Laurent in the late '90s.
The greatest-hits tour continued with hints of strong-shouldered glam (from his fall 2005 Dior Homme collection), a liberal sprinkling of his Psych Rock collection (circa 2013), and a grab-bag of Slimane signatures and silhouettes including tapestry jackets, silk bows and metallic boots. A distinct glam-western vibe manifested itself in hand-embroidered tapestry jackets trimmed with gold metallic fringe, men's silk cowboy shirts with contrast piping and leopard print or metal stud yoke detailing, and wide leather belts with saucer-sized buckles for women.
Despite the myriad references to past collections — or maybe because of them — the resulting rock-god-meets-bohemian collection was Slimane's most grown-up and sophisticated for the house to date.
The entire collection was grounded in a color palette of black, red and gold, accompanied by a zoo full of animal prints, leathers and furs and the occasional swirl of psychedelia. And there were capes — lots and lots of capes. (Can capes be a thing? Please?)
The women's silhouettes were heavy on the midi dresses, culottes and caftans accessorized with silk pussy bows, wide leather belts and glammed-out boots in metallic leathers and animal prints.
Menswear offerings skewed toward the super-skinny silhouette, with super-sharp three-piece suits reminiscent of David Bowie's Thin White Duke days, a range of western-inspired shirts and jackets, a fringe festival of drapey scarves, and lots of riffs on the iconic leather motorcycle jacket. Many of the looks were finished off with wide, flat-brimmed fedoras.
Standout women's looks included a leopard-print midi dress worn under a red velvet cape with a gold embroidered closure, a black dress with silver lightning bolt embroidery, a black leather dress with a mink draped over the shoulders and a silver sequin dress with allover floral embroidery in bright orange, pink and blue with feather detailing at the wrists that looked like Funfetti-colored pompoms.
Noteworthy for men was a black, peak-lapel tuxedo jacket embellished with a galaxy of stars and solar system's worth of swirling planets (the show notes called it "Hedi's couture cosmic tux"), a red-and-gold brocade varsity jacket, black tuxedo trousers with a red side stripe and, what may be the ne plus ultra of rock-godhood, a gold mink coat with a generously cut collar that shimmered under the lights with each step.
After the models had taken their final runway turn, the audience responded with a long and sustained standing ovation that only subsided after Slimane popped out from backstage for a quick semi-bow and a wave.
Was it necessary for Slimane, who moved the label's creative offices here from Paris in 2012 — the same year he lobbied to drop the "Yves" from the Yves Saint Laurent label — to upend convention by staging runway shows in his adopted hometown? No, in the end, the Saint Laurent Palladium collection could have come down the catwalk in Paris, Milan or New York City. But somehow it felt right. If the bohemian rock-god has a natural habitat, where else would it be but Los Angeles?