Cigarettes and Tumblr: Hedi Slimane’s Era-Defining A/W14 Saint Laurent Show

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Saint Laurent Autumn/Winter 2014
Saint Laurent Autumn/Winter 2014

The designer’s early 2010s Saint Laurent show captured an air of glamorous grunge, influencing “groupie” fashion from west London all the way to downtown New York, writes Biz Sherbert

Hedi Slimane’s inspiration for the Saint Laurent Autumn/Winter 2014 show was youth and rock-and-roll, of course. This collection felt even younger than usual, and poppier too, with models in short 1960s shift dresses cut with crosswise bows; glitter-coated Mary Janes; a sequined tartan mini skirt; and silky black bow ties that looked too big on the neck, like a baby wearing a grown up-sized tux as a joke. Models’ eyelids were entirely engulfed in black, lower lashes rubbed with mascara until they clumped up and took on a life of their own – like Twiggy’s famous spider-lashes had crawled into the movie Coraline, where characters have shiny onyx buttons for eyes.

The Show

There were absolutely no pants on the runway, only little skirts and dresses, and 54 identical pairs of thigh-gapped black tights. Everyone moved frictionlessly to the bassline of Cherry Glazerr’s Had Ten Dollaz, a song frontwoman Clementine Creevy said she wrote about spending her last ten dollars on cigarettes. Slimane heard the song and liked it so much he asked Creevy to compose a 20-minute version to soundtrack the Saint Laurent show. Cigarettes are an important part of this collection: even though we don’t see them anywhere, you can hear them in the music. You can also imagine them hanging between the fingers of the 1960s youthquake girls who inspired Slimane, and between the fingers of the neo-youthquakers of 2014 (girls who reblogged photos on Tumblr of Pattie Boyd in Mary Quant babydoll dresses alongside photos of Courtney Love in kinderwhore babydoll dresses).

The People

“The casual extravagance (extravagant casualness?) of Slimane’s vision was best captured by Edie Campbell in a fur-trimmed army parka over a lamé top, black tights, and crystal-covered Mary Janes,” wrote Tim Blanks in his Vogue Runway review. That parka felt a little out-of-place, a little Burlington Coat Factory when compared to the swinging capes and crystal-buttoned peacoats keeping the other girls warm. That’s also why it felt so cool, like it had been briskly thrown on on the way out of a bar to have a cigarette on the sidewalk. Of model Edie Campell and her parka, Blanks continued, “Between the name and the look, it was hard to miss the spirit of Warhol’s Edie, the ultimate pop princess.” In their tights and kohled eyes, the other models were Sedgewickian too – especially musician and Slimane it girl Julia Cumming, who bears a striking resemblance to Warhol’s Edie. Cumming wore a little red riding cape, her platinum blonde hair frizzled out, a bit like the electrified white wigs of Warhol himself. A few of the models felt particularly 2014, like Charlotte Free, the pink-haired Tumblr it girl, and Langley Fox Hemingway, a great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway who looks like she’s always on her way to be photographed in the dust at Coachella.

British musicians Alex Turner and Miles Kane sat on the front row next to the big champagne bottles that the brand had put there for people on the frow to drink and pose with. This was the year after the Arctic Monkeys released their album AM, which included Arabella, a song about a girl who not only loves to smoke cigarettes, but also owns a “Barbarella silver swimsuit” – a costume originally made by Paco Rabanne for the 1968 sci-fi film of the same name, ​​Barbarella. Afterwards, Turner and Kane said the girls on the catwalk were “the kind of girls they’d like to get to know”.

The Impact

The girls who wore these clothes were well-to-do: they were Hemingway descendants and west London girls called Edie. Those sparkly Mary Janes and boots, however, travelled a lot further. Zara made copies that were popular enough that I knew about them before I ever knew of their Saint Laurent roots. They were worn by young women who fashioned themselves into moddier, moodier Pamela Des Barres minions. They were good for sticky floors in the East Village, a statement piece to go with not-quite-out-of-style skinny jeans. They embodied blasts of the groupie revivalist energy that was drifting around downtown, a fool’s gold version of being the life of the party not because you care to be, but just because you’re in the room where the party is. They were the spiritual companion to never-washed fur coats, and the clickclickclickpop of a disposable camera winding up.

Ultimately, the glitter shoes were a little bit evil, too Rumplestiltskin-y to last long in regular rotation for anyone who wasn’t a Disney adult. But now, there’s a Sedgewickian-by-way-of-2014 wind in the air. Mid-2010s Tumblr it girls have grown up into Euphoria stars, heavy black eye makeup is making headlines, and a Nirvana track is charting as the theme of a big superhero movie. It kind of does smell like teen spirit.