Thursday, September 27, 2018

Two Different Ideas of Women at YSL and Marine Serre

Are you caught up on the latest news? Michael Kors acquires Versace for 2 billion euros! LVMH is resurrecting Jean Patou, a 20th-century couture house! Hedi Slimane did his first interview at Céline! The fashion industry is a string of appointments, firings, acquisitions, and divestments. It may look creatively-inclined but it’s always got its finger on the pulse of the business. Makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, fashion is about the bottom line.

That’s a cynical way of looking at things. Fashion and its cultural relevance shouldn’t be lost because it holds as much value to the world as the numbers do to the executives at the head of luxury conglomerates. Designers can communicate messages through clothing and on day two of Paris Fashion Week, the shows mostly struck a balance between creativity and commerce. 

Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent is one of the parent company Kering’s most prized possessions. With over $1 billion in revenue, it’s important to them to sustain the growth Hedi Slimane built during his tenure as the previous artistic director. 

For the third time, Vaccarello spared no expense in summoning guests to the Eiffel Tower for a blockbuster event, a veritable fashion spectacular. Set designers brought Los Angeles to Paris. (He’s really clinging onto Slimane’s legacy.) They erected white palm trees, models walked on water. 

Vaccarello is quite good at reworking pieces from the archive. This time, the strongest notes came from Slimane’s period at the house. Models strut with their hands pocketed in their tapered trousers; slinky mini dresses recalled some of Slimane’s final collections. Of course, he intertwined nods to the house’s founder, taking cues from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a playful ode to the house’s origins and it makes for a potent fashion statement, a self-assured awareness of the YSL legacy. The Slimane stuff? Also a self-assured awareness of the modern YSL legacy.

On the other hand, Vaccarello’s statement about femininity isn’t as reassuring. He was going for a sort of 1970s sexual liberation narrative but somewhere he got dropped it all and just went for sex. It was scantily-clad, mostly abbreviated hemlines suitable for the leisure class as opposed to corporate professionals, sheer fabrics and leopard print exuding sex appeal. Are pelvis-exposing bodysuits necessary in 2018? A leopard print sarong. Really? 

Integrating women’s basic wardrobe needs-- good trousers, a nice jacket--into a collection isn’t such a foreign concept. There was some superb tailoring, all 1970s-inspired. It evoked a quintessentially French sensibility in terms of styling. All the models were missing was a cigarette dangling from their red-stained pouts and a highball with whiskey. As I said, it’s one for the leisure class.

Vaccarello, with the aid of a twinkling Eiffel Tower and a huge set, encapsulated the wealth and means of the Saint Laurent brand. What he could’ve done with is some intimacy. Money talks but it doesn’t always have to. 

On the contrary, Marine Serre’s ‘Futurewear’ was clever, vibrant, and dynamic. The recipient of the 2017 LVMH Prize elaborated on many of her ruminations, chiefly, elevated utility. There were many military-style pockets on pantsuits! There were more creative splicings of second-hand scarves, this time into couture-like gowns! A fabulous keychain-embroidered overcoat on Helmut Lang-favourite, the 90s model Cordula Reyer! Women of all ages! Families! Different ethnic backgrounds!

Serre is the new kid on the block but she’s done, in two seasons. She reflexively responds to the ever-changing needs of women and she attempts to make their daily lives that bit easier, whether it is in utilitarian tailoring or scarf pattern, Grecian-inspired evening gowns. Her ‘Futurewear’ proclamations were very much rooted in combining utility with couture ideals. Her signature, the crescent moon, which can be read for its religious, spiritual, or aesthetic connotations was emblazoned on denim. A knockout. A meaningful one.

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