Last week, Hedi Slimane showed his first menswear collection as creative director of
YSL Saint Laurent Paris.
During his time as creative director of Dior Homme (2000-2007), Slimane quickly carved out his aesthetic as the antithesis of Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, JPG et al’s chiseled male models, instead showing his collection on thin, pale and boyish models, often street casted by Slimane himself. Hedi popularised skinny jeans and consequently, even skinnier bodies. Feting London’s indie rock scene, Hedi faced criticism for his obsession with eternal fuck-up Pete Doherty (obviously this was before Pete started cutting his coke with pork pies) featuring him in many a moody black and white photo for his Rock Diary and kitting him out in skinny tailoring for years. This new aesthetic was quickly picked up throughout the fashion industry, with Karl Lagerfeld even famously declaring Slimane’s skinny tailoring as the motivation behind his massive weight loss in 2001.
As a 11-16 year old, the Hedi Dior Homme collections really struck a chord with me, and were definitely the start of my obsession with fashion and particularly menswear. I was skinny, with a chest as flat as Hedi’s models and a penchant for Topman. I loved the androgyny, the easy London cool mapped out in never-ending black and white, all set to catwalk soundtracks by my favourite bands of the time. The same boys at school who would shout ‘GAY!’ at any boy wearing pink were now spending their mother’s money on jeans that could have been their sisters’.Fast forward to 2012, five years on from the fashion forward, critically lauded collections showed under Dior Homme, to the first men’s collection as Saint Laurent Paris. And it was awful.
Whereas his collections at Dior Homme captured the spirit of a moment, what we are offered for AW13 is an irrelevant rehash of grunge-by-numbers, with Julia Nobis (a model whose weight, or lack thereof, is dribbled over by pro-ana fan girls across the world) in a predictable Kurt Cobain inspired outfit that wouldn’t look out of place on a Topman sale rail. Gutted.
She was followed by other mini Kurts, in leopard print cardigans and plaid shirts, amongst ripped jeans and duffle coats.
The only memorable thing about the collection, sadly, was the use of a model who, even if his thinness is natural, has absolutely no place in a fashion show.
This bizarre, disappointing and wildly irresponsible casting (I’ve yet to find a name and agency for him, but I’m sure his comp card is a total lie already) is all the more confusing given Slimane’s strained relationship with the press surrounding his re-branding of Saint Laurent Paris. This model’s inclusion sparked immediate disgust on Twitter, with fashion industry insiders and fans in general left baffled at Slimane’s obvious face-palm.
Models being too thin is a subject that has been talked about over and over again and will continue to be talked about over and over again, but what had previously only been a major concern in womenswear, With Andrej Pejic talking about his struggle to keep his weight low enough to model womenswear, the implications of using a model whose body shape, being so extreme, totally eclipses the outfit he is wearing. With the cross-over between womens and menswear and the use of women in menswear shows and vice versa more popular than ever, are boys falling prey to the same body fascism that has been part and parcel of being a female model for decades?
Casting agents obviously work with this preference for androgyny, rather than masculinity, in mind, James Scully, a seasoned casting agent with a solid rep built at Tom Ford era Gucci said of casting, “Everyone looks to Miuccia Prada for the standard the way they used to look at Hedi Slimane. Once the Hedi Slimanization got started, all anyone wanted to cast was the scrawny kid who looked like he got sand kicked in his face. The big, great looking models just stopped going to Europe. They knew they’d never get cast.”
With constant efforts to regulate how thin is too thin with regards to female models, perhaps more attention needs to be paid to their male counterparts, particularly if designers like Slimane are going to cast such shockingly thin models. 25% of reported eating disorder sufferers, something which increases year upon year, and although I’m not suggesting that eating disorders are ~caused~ by fashion models, it would definitely be a good idea for people to know that YOU MAY BE THIN ENOUGH TO BE A MODEL, BUT YOU’RE ALSO THIN ENOUGH TO BE DEAD.
It’s disappointing really, particularly when you think that Slimane is showing such a irrelevant, dull collection with a spattering of mental health related controversy under the name of Yves Saint Laurent, a man who not only struggled himself with drug addiction and mental health problems but also as a man regarded as one of the finest designers in history. Hopefully Hedi’s gotten his ‘Thin Boy in a High Street Shop’ out of his system and SS14 will be something worth paying attention to outside of pro-ana Livejournals and ~soft grunge~ tumblrs.