The Search for Modernity

The Search for Modernity

What has already been said about the Saint
Laurent collection doesn’t need noting here but it is perplexing that the conversation
has mainly revolved around PR, personal vendettas and social media
shenanigans.  We may have more coverage of fashion shows than ever
before, but is it necessarily coverage of the right stuff?  It has never felt more clear to me that reports
of open letters, physically slapped PRs and Twitter feuds are all mere
distractions to the real problem at hand – this ongoing elusive search for
modernity in fashion that peppered the reviews like a lustful longing that
perhaps hasn‚Äôt been quite fulfilled. 


Raf Simons apparently came close with his
collection for Dior, which Suzy Menkes hailed as a “Triumph of 21st
Century Modernism”
, an opinion not necessarily shared by all.  Nicolas Ghesquiere was praised for his ‚Äúutterly modern gloss on intense study of the house's
archives” at Balenciaga (Nicole Phelps, Phoebe
Philo at Celine gave us “a collection
jam-packed with juicy innovation. (Lisa Armstrong, Telegraph)  Alex
Fury at Love Magazine
praised a trio that included Ghesquiere and Philo for
their offerings of perceived newness: “The best collections thus
far in Paris have all offered opposing views, but modern views. Rick Owens,
Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga and Phoebe Philo for Céline hit the jackpot,
although their collections couldn't have been more different.”


The full Daft Punk-engineered soundtrack of the show unfortunately doesn't include the killer intro that had the venue buzzing with excitement as the acoustics were changed with moving black panels and lowered speakers.  

Bringing us back to the subject at hand, when
it came to Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane’s ready to wear debut, the consensus
of critics has been that it lacked the “frisson
of the unexpected” (Lisa Armstrong, The Telegraph) and that it was
underwhelming, fueled slyly by less-than-favourable seating allocations and
furors at controlled press environments. 
Good old Bill Cunningham gets it in one though “The critics had demanded
a revolution and they didn‚Äôt get it.  And
yet there was a revolution at both houses. 
The designers took back their authority, presenting clothes that women
might actually buy and wear, instead of creating eye-popping spectacles for the

When I came out of the Saint Laurent show (disclaimer: I
was standing.  I didn‚Äôt care though.  I saw the show just fine.), my very primal
and initial thought was that this was Slimane‚Äôs big ‚ÄúF U‚Äù to fashion.  By fashion, I mean the microcosmic industry, which
in the larger scheme of things doesn’t really dictate how the consumer at large
buys their clothes.  Slimane‚Äôs departure
from fashion and into the American wilderness may have given him more
perspective about this microcosm and that what he wants to say with his
womenswear debut for Saint Laurent may not be to the liking of upper echelons of
directional tastemakers.  Within this teensy
tiny world, critics and editors push collections that to most eyes seem
implausible – fluffy slippers at Celine, giant ruffles at Balenciaga, bubble
dresses at Rick Owens.  We, the fashion
folk collectively laud these things and itch to buy them but what about the
consumer who actually wants to look like that girl that strutted down the Saint
Laurent catwalk to a soundtrack that hummed ‚ÄúI gotta try you girl.‚Äù  A quick search on Twitter immediately after
the show from non-editors, non-industry folk showed a favourable thumbs
up.  ‚ÄúGorgeous!‚Äù, ‚ÄúI want everything!‚Äù,
‚ÄúI DIE!‚Äù were what I recall reading.  That
was a quick scan of about 300 tweets.  What
does it say about modernity if there are many girls who want to look like this
right now?          




The Saint Laurent girl looked like she had rolled
out of bed post a sexy liaison with some indie boy, right into a perfectly
poised floppy hat, an immaculately tailored jacket, tight-as-you-might
trousers, and a sheer pussy-bow blouse that reeked of “I’m the girl that guys
want to get with and the girls want to be.‚Äù 
To put a generalization out there, that’s an alluring prospect for a lot
of women.  Across the world be it Los
Angeles (supposedly the starting core of the collection), Tokyo, Shanghai, New
York, Sydney and beyond РI’ve seen girls and women emulating this look albeit
without the finesse that Slimane applied to clothes that even to my standing
showgoer eye, looked extremely well crafted and as expected,




In some respects, the show was a big wake-up call
for me, the number one perpetrator of pushing a fashion agenda that isn’t
palatable to most.  Walking out of the
Saint Laurent show gave me a clarity that what’s powerful about today’s fashion
world is the choice we have.  There was
no show that echoed what Slimane created for Saint Laurent this season.  Sadly, there were many shows that echoed each
other in their shared influences and routinely include watered down
Balenciaga-isms, Alaia-isms and Celine-isms. 
For that, I therefore applaud Slimane in doing his own thing, guided by
instinct, even if it‚Äôs not necessarily to my own aesthetic taste. 




The look that
Slimane carved out for Saint Laurent is enduringly evocative.  Yes it kept within the codes of Yves Saint
Laurent’s yesteryear of Safari nods, velvet suiting a la Betty Catroux and
chiffon kaftans from his Moroccan soujourns, but that women at large (in Los
Angeles and beyond) in 2012 still crave to look like this says that Slimane is
cannier than the critics give him credit for.   

That said, I mean no disrespect to those industry
figures in fashion’s hierarchical microcosm and I praise them for their work
and their perspective.  God knows we need
to cherish those perspectives when fashion continues to be increasingly dumbed
down and de-opinionated in media.  What I
guess I’m trying to get at is what’s modern in fashion is in the eye of the
beholder.  We, the critic, the stylist,
the journalist or the editor – can search for it all we want but what people
actually want to wear right now in their majority, shouldn’t be discounted as
outdated public opinion.


A quick gander at Saint Laurent’s new website
with its shiny e-store and already I’m seeing hyper excited waitlists
forming for Slimane’s core collection of leather jackets, skinny jeans, pussy
bows and footwear just as his creations for Dior Homme would routinely sell
out and create frenzy.  Actually the website in general is
most telling of Slimane‚Äôs creative direction of the house.  The site alludes to youth, music and sex – all the things that we know Slimane for and has made his design identity such a recognisable one.  At least Slimane has one (an identity, that is), even if it rubs people up the wrong way.  


Leave a comment
  1. Serdane

    2012-10-10 at 3:12 PM

    I’m not very amazed by the collection of Slimane. Even if I love his world, imagination and his science of rock – glamour – chic look, I hoped that he would do something more in the continuity of the Saint Laurent touch. Where are the dresses, the chic parisian elegance ? What is this soft weird, underground, make up ? Anyway, I didn’t love !

  2. Grunhauser

    2012-10-10 at 3:16 PM

    Oh, how glad I am that this piece came from you. Just read it. Bravo and thank you! The revolution happened before the eyes of the critics and they failed to even notice it.

  3. Bianca

    2012-10-10 at 3:29 PM

    Thank you for giving this issue a wider scope! All week I’ve been reading stories written by the microcosmic few you mentioned (with all due respect etc). I’m just interested to know what you mean by the SL show acting as a wakeup call for you.
    Are you likening your personal dress to the “unpalatable” aspects of the SL show? Or are you referring to your clothing choices being unpalatable to the wider population, the ones with the buying power?

  4. susie_bubble

    2012-10-10 at 3:33 PM

    What I meant was that my personal taste is definitely unpalatable to the majority of fashion buying public. That’s something I acknowledge but not something I’m apologetic for. My taste is my taste. I just wanted people to know that I’m writing about Saint Laurent from the perspective, not as a prospective wearer but a fashion observer, one that can see the wider picture – that we can’t really pretend to be in a fashion bubble where squeegy Balenciaga neoprene sweatshirts and satin loose Celine trousers are the norm – that the fashion taste at large is actually more in sync with Slimane’s vision for Saint Laurent….

  5. Liz

    2012-10-10 at 3:45 PM

    amazing piece! you are a great writer!

  6. Miss coco

    2012-10-10 at 3:47 PM

    I want it all I think is beautiful and awesome!!!

  7. yaghnagh

    2012-10-10 at 3:53 PM

    If appealing to the lowest common denominator is the new direction of high fashion, we might as well give up! I suspect you’re playing the devils advocate just to be contrary Susie.
    Some people will like anything with a designer brand on it, but we shouldn’t use these consumers as an excuse for poor design. The fashion industry should (and does) hold itself to higher taste levels than that.
    You’re right in saying there’s nothing wrong with giving the people what they want, and the clothes did look beautifully made, but most designers have the sense to keep their more commercial offerings off the catwalk. Fashion week has become more than just next season’s clothes. Nowadays it’s more about an interchange of ideas and Slimane’s misunderstanding of this felt very old fashioned.


    2012-10-10 at 4:03 PM


  9. H

    2012-10-10 at 5:30 PM

    As far as the ‘dumbing down’ of fashion in the general media that you mention toward the end of your piece, I can’t help but think Slimane is a conspirator in it. I like your notion that all of the PR issues and seating drama surrounding the show could be construed as part of some big anti-industry statement–but if you’re going to give the middle finger to the industry, make a collection that rises above it, not one that stoops below to coddle the masses! I believe Raf has achieved the former with his collection–with grace, mind you!–and he succeeded while Hedi fell flat and embarrassed himself in the process.

  10. Joy

    2012-10-10 at 5:51 PM

    i really agree with you here. everything looks fabulous!

  11. Matthew

    2012-10-10 at 5:55 PM

    good post suebubs. We’re all actually in a stubble bubble not a fashion bubble!xx

  12. Denisa

    2012-10-10 at 6:59 PM

    I like the post. You have great blog.

  13. Couteau

    2012-10-10 at 8:04 PM

    Your point is that Hedi Slimane created a sellable collection that is true to both his world view and the Saint Laurent aesthetic. True, but not in practice. The core audience for this style will find the same stuff in vintage stores. Buyers of luxury have higher expectations. That’s my impression.
    I do think you missed an important point. Pr√™t-√†-Porter was almost nonexistent when Yves Saint Laurent started his label, so it would be common practice to have casual clothing made by a couturier. Safari jackets, etc… That’s not the case today, since we get casual off the high-street. Literal referencing is always problematic. In this case, it seems like he followed his taste. It could well be that he’s out of place in high fashion.

  14. Jessica

    2012-10-10 at 8:14 PM

    I love that style with a big hat! So feminine and elegant.
    I found you through Twitter – also a blogger, but more on legwear.

  15. Lizzy

    2012-10-10 at 8:54 PM

    The pictures in black and white are so amazing! I love how classic it looks. Check out all the styles we have to offer at

  16. Tania Poli

    2012-10-10 at 9:10 PM

    There couldn’t be a better wrap for the show. Agree with every single word. Real people who actually buy (think, can afford to buy) the main lines don’t care fashion world whatsoever, don’t know who Anna Wintour is, or what the trends are… They just love it and go for it. Thanks to these people the industry actually has profits.
    I think I’ll just share this post instead of writing something on YSL myself.

  17. Christine

    2012-10-10 at 9:37 PM

    I very much agree with the whole of this post! I believe europeans are more open to different or edgy stuff. I live in Argentina and women seem to be afraid of stepping a little out of line when it comes to personal style. Most people dress in what could be described as “prety uniforms” (sometimes they’re not even fashionable or stylish…).

  18. Rhoda Wong

    2012-10-11 at 12:38 AM

    i really love their collection, the wide rimmed hats are perfect!

  19. Kaylene

    2012-10-11 at 12:43 AM

    Such a refreshing and wise view! I really enjoyed reading this, and it has made me realise that I have lost a bit of perspective when it comes to forming opinions about runway collections.

  20. JES

    2012-10-11 at 2:53 AM

    Well, yes, it’s very wearable/salable– because it’s copied off of old YSL looks with a little “LA rocker chick” styling. And styling is all that it is. Look at the YSL archive– Yves made clothes that were revolutionary, beautiful, daring AND eminently wearable AND salable– hell, that’s why he was knocked-off so much. I really expected more. Compared to the real thing, it’s a watered-down, H&M/Zara ready version of YSL. But, I have high hopes for the future.

  21. niche

    2012-10-11 at 3:00 AM

    My problem with the Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane fashion show is that the mystique and hype did not match the actual collection. Stefano Pilati was a successful designer in that loads of women bought his clothes and more specifically his accessories but he still got dumped. I’m sure there are other reasons too. But Slimane was suppose to take YSL to a new level of creativity and design (at least based on the hype surrounding him). There are lots of commercially successful designers that regular shoppers love who are not fashion industry darlings. In fact, I’m sure that I’m one of those shoppers as I work in a normal office and most things on the runway are not wearable investment pieces. Nobody expected Saint Laurent and Slimane to be in that category. And yes, the collection fits the YSL ethos but its not a fresh or modern take on it. It looks like a straight revival and Rachel Zoe already did it.

  22. Lem

    2012-10-11 at 4:00 AM

    If you want to find a great fashion website/blog like this one, you’d better check out IndieMode.

  23. Krystalle

    2012-10-11 at 5:55 AM

    I have to completely agree with this.
    I do appreciate you (Susie) taking an outsider stance on this issue (Re: Your outsider post recently) and offering a refreshing perspective, and yes, I agree that commerce is still heavily involved in fashion and ultimately ensures its survival. But if everyone thought that way, if Ghesquire, Philo, Rick Owens, Burton all thought that way, we might as well just eliminate all the fashion houses and stick with H&M and Zara who sell wearable clothes for the average woman. The thing about H&M and Zara though is that they provide watered down versions of visionary design at the above-mentioned fashion luminaries and sell it to the bulk of the consumers.
    Why should we expect Saint Laurent to stoop to this level? Saint Laurent, the revolutionary designer who made the tuxedo suit desirable for women and generated demand for his clothes instead of merely fulfilling the existing demand? Perhaps Saint Laurent as a consumer brand will be raking in stronger sales for this new collection, but like you’ve previously mentioned, there just isn’t enough innovation in the industry. And we could definitely use more of that.

  24. Bianca

    2012-10-11 at 6:10 AM

    Thanks for clearing that up Susie, that’s what I thought you were getting at.

  25. Sari Purdy

    2012-10-11 at 7:12 AM

    I love the pieces and the modern and elegant looks!

  26. Elvis Trujillo

    2012-10-11 at 7:14 AM

    Good stuff. I love that you wrote up this piece. I am glad. Thanks!

  27. Wiley Prince

    2012-10-11 at 7:56 AM

    Those hats are pretty! I love her style.

  28. Rosemary Schmidt

    2012-10-11 at 8:30 AM

    Amazing stuff and collection of Slimane! I really love them, those hat design and the coats are actually fabulous and stunning. The modern is on tops, keep up!

  29. Noe Farrell

    2012-10-11 at 8:32 AM

    This is very impressive. The show decoration looks very neat, cool and beautiful! I love the outfit too, everything looks charming indeed! Where will I find such outfit? I adore the ladies, they look very stylish!

  30. The Provoker

    2012-10-11 at 9:59 AM

    You’re so lucky you got to go see this, I actually really love their wide wide wide brimmed hats, kinda see myself sporting them to shield my face on days of low self esteem… Btw, I’ve posted up my new shoe fetish purchase (kinky huh), tell me what you think 😉
    xx The Provoker

  31. susie_bubble

    2012-10-11 at 5:49 PM

    FINALLY got the time to write a reply! Sorry about the delayed response.
    Firstly I want to say that I’m absolutely not trying to be contrary with this post. This was my gut reaction when I first saw the show and there’s video footage somewhere (FTV? Fashion Forward? Don’t remember which one) where I say immediately after the show that I thought this was Slimane’s fuck you to the industry as he sees it – an ultra directional design agenda that doesn’t actually speak to the women that he ultimately sees Saint Laurent on. I will say it again. Not every woman wants to wear Balenciaga squeegy neoprene sweaters (or as an editor called them – “fatsuits”)
    I stated that the Saint Laurent collection is not necessarily MY aesthetic but it’s not supposed to be. I’m not the audience. Nor is Cathy Horyn or a slew of critics. The final test will be in the consumer and buyers thus far have responded well to the collection.
    As for appealing to the lowest common demominator – I never said this was a “new” direction in high fashion. I said this was Slimane’s chosen path. And why is it that the onus has been placed on Slimane to give us innovation and revolution anyway? Like I said, I think this season we have been grasping at straws, wading through plenty of quite mediocre collections (with exceptions of course) trying to find “modernity” or “innovation” but have come up short. Therefore, the way I interpret it is that Slimane has stuck to his taste, how he sees the Saint Laurent woman in the 21st century and to me, when you look at the product on the site and the collection as a whole – you can see that it’s a stepping stone between the core codes of YSL and his own aesthetic which in his Dior Homme years were pretty well established – skinny and immaculate tailoring. I’m not sure why anyone thought that he would come up with something that veered away from that.
    The problem was the build up and the mystery. We have ourselves to blame for the media hype.
    You are also right that the fashion industry should hold itself to higher taste levels than the “mass” but from my naked eye, the clothes put out in that Saint Laurent were certainly elevated above what’s available mass market (I’ll address that point in reply to another commenter below). The tailoring was what stood out and it’s interesting that those are the sole pieces to have gone online on to the e-store. Perhaps the show needed editing and focus to draw attention to those points.
    It’s not that I think Slimane was purposely appealing to the masses but that his own taste, his environment (LA) and the people around him fed into a collection that he feels speaks to people. Feeling the verve of the streets. It just so happens that the look isn’t exactly something we’ve never seen before but at the refined level of the clothes themselves, perhaps that wasn’t the objective.
    Also, to point out the obvious – this is the first show of a long journey. Who remembers Tisci’s first collection for Givenchy? Karl Lagerfeld’s first for Chanel (which was criticised)? Let’s wait it out first…
    Weirdly your last statement didn’t chime with me – “fashion week has become more than just next season’s clothes” – I kind of think that IS exactly what it has become. With the normal exceptions (Kawakubo, Ghesquiere, Simons, Chris Kane, Proenza, Miuccia Prada etc…), I feel like there is a GLUT of clothing shown at fashion weeks today that is about getting product out there rather than showcasing innovative and culturally-shaking ideas…
    If you asked me out of the 150 shows/presentations I attended this season, how much of it I remember – I can tell you – not a lot I’m afraid…
    Btw, fantastic blog post on Maya Singer’s comments. That said, there’s no reading between the lines here. I say what I feel and this is exactly how I feel even though it goes against my own aesthetics feeling. Sometimes I have to put that aside though and look at the bigger picture.

  32. susie_bubble

    2012-10-11 at 5:54 PM

    See my reply to yaghnagh…. and yes I agree with you to some extent but what I’m saying is that the onus on Hedi Slimane to be that INNOVATOR or REVOLUTIONARY may have been misconceived. He does what he does well. I do predict higher salers in comparison to Pilati’s ready to wear collections (which by all accounts was mediocre were it not for the shoes and bags) and like I said, take a look at the e-commerce website. Those jackets and trousers aren’t exactly H&M/Zara fare. The construction even from flat pictures already tell me that Slimane is exercising his point of difference – his tailoring skills. That may not have come across from the show but what will be sold en masse will be those neat little jackets and well-fitted trousers.
    Yes, what Yves did all those years ago was revolutionary but perhaps Slimane is also easing into the house, exercising those codes first before unleashing anything dramatics.
    My point wasn’t that Slimane was necessarily designing to please the masses but that it coincidentally chimed in with what people ACTUALLY wear and how they dress – that’s a strange notion for fashion. It’s certainly not one that I’m that familiar with. Hell, I blog about the most peculiar designs most of the time. That said I think having an awareness of the wider world beyond the rarified few who buy Celine satin trousers or Givenchy bomber jackets is no bad thing. It feels weirdly refreshing to me.
    Above all, these Saint Laurent pieces upon closer inspection ARE elevated above H&M/Zara just by their construction already. It may not look that way from flat catwalk images but that’s what it seemed like time.
    Like I said in my last comment to yaghnagh, also time will tell…

  33. susie_bubble

    2012-10-11 at 5:55 PM

    Couteau, see my reply to Yaghnagh and Krystalle. Yes, you can get the “look” of those clothes but what about the construction? Already if you look at the website, you can see that the jackets, coats and trousers aren’t exactly mass market fare…

  34. susie_bubble

    2012-10-11 at 5:57 PM

    Sadly Pilati’s clothes did NOT translate to sales though – the accessories did well but not the ready to wear. Again, i emphasise that there was a huge onus on Slimane to somehow be a “revolutionary” but where were the roots for that? We know what he did at Dior Homme and we can deduce that moving the studio to LA would produce some sort of knock on effect on the designs too.
    As for the search for “freshness” or “modernity” – like I said, it could well be a futile cause…

  35. susie_bubble

    2012-10-11 at 6:00 PM

    Like I said in my previous comments, I don’t think Slimane was necessarily purposely coddling the masses with his collection. It coincidentally chimes with how a lot of girls what to dress like. That was his magic move at Dior Homme, chiming in with how kids wanted to dress and clicking with them. This collection may also not be the full indicator of what Slimane has planned for the house. A collection of gratitude to Pierre Berge perhaps? Time will tell…

  36. rarararara

    2012-10-11 at 7:59 PM

    I guess what you imply in the end of your last comment, Susie, might be my problem with this.
    There are very few people presenting stuff that is actually interesting and innovative. But after what Slimane did at Diorhomme, and to menswear in general, expectations on my side at least were pretty high. I thought there might happen something, new, an idea, a vibe whatur, but his fault too i think
    I thought there might happen something, new, an idea, a vibe whatever.
    And then…..: There is no proposal of any interesting shape, really bad taste going on and the look is just dated. Also i have to disagree on the tailoring. The shapes and the cuts of the jackets are very basic and plain, i can’t find any design in them. They are crafted nicely…. Well for 3500, they should be.
    To me it’s Zara-fashion in a highfashion-pricerange.
    But the looks are not different. Maybe even worse. A studded, shapeless, fringed, cognac, velours maxi-dress, laced at the bust?! Wtf. Putting huge hat on it, does not make it fashionable or tasteful, whatsoever.
    If clothing is staged in a way it is at paris fashion week, there should be something that is interesting or inspiring in a way. An attempt to change peoples way of dressing, look at clothing and also giving direction to the whole industry. If you are in a position like he is at Saint Laurent, where there is actually just one creative director, and you are designing for a very exclusive clientel anyway, the core of a collection should not be the dress of ‘the average women’. I just think the position he is in, requires something more.
    If Slimanes statement is about basic clothing and what people finally buy, i would question his understanding of the term designer, as i would question your approach to fashion-journalism if you posted a basic biker-jacket as the most interesting piece of the season as it is very wearable.
    Fashion is about zeitgeist and innovation. Otherwise it’s just about clothing.

  37. Krystalle

    2012-10-12 at 4:59 PM

    Thanks for taking the time out to give lengthy and thought-provoking replies to the comments, Susie! I think you do make a few excellent counter-points to the debate as well (i.e. Slimane being hired for his Dior Homme aesthetic and the possibility that this was perhaps a collection of gratitude to Pierre Berge/easing into the house). But most importantly, yes, time will tell. I guess we’d all have to wait and see how Slimane would fare for his next few collections.

  38. Voza

    2012-10-12 at 8:39 PM

    Your post is a treat to read. Thank you for being so smart, sweet and serious. My turn, being a genius or not I find Slimane quite pretentious, so I expected him to do a better homework. I don’t see the point to compare him to Raf, but dropping the Yves was a huge statement which was deceived by the show. I didn’t really feel that he actually worked enough to put the house in the higher level he promised. My first impression was that he got trapped in the research of Yves Saint Laurent roots. The main problem for me wasn’t actually the clothes (everybody would had died if he comes up with original re-editions of Saint Laurent, that would had been so beyond modernity) but the lack of a story to tell. It seems to me that the story wasn’t clear for him so there were not screenplay behind his movie. Those girls where just there with no destination at all and the hat (pretty hat) added to this lack of purpose, it was like a false concept to keep the spare pieces together. It would be probably Kate Moss who will give a sense to what he did.


    2012-10-13 at 4:32 AM

    There is no question that this collection gained mass amounts of attention due to the public drama surrounding the designers and journalists. I found the whole situation to be embarrassing and extremely immature. On another note, I would have to agree that the search for modernity in today’s fashion is prevalent, but as you discussed, not everyone is on board this train. The change to Saint Laurent is evident in the new collection, website and so on, and they are proving that they are making changes, whether or not everyone approves. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, which is what makes this industry so diverse, and criticism will always be present, but when people take it too far, things get out of hand and childish, as we’ve seen in this public drama.

  40. Ivana

    2012-10-16 at 1:39 AM

    I enjoyed reading you words. You are an amazing writer with a wonderful perspective on what fashion, “the creators” and the people are, feel and want. Keep it going! xx

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