The grungy, vintage-y LA look that current Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane puts on the catwalk has foxed many people, who find it hard to see echoes of the sainted Yves in his work. Yet many of the long-established staples of the house are indeed present, if more often as seasonless classics than show spectaculars: beautifully tailored tuxedo suits, soft leather jackets and luxuriantly soft silk shirts. If Slimane concentrates most on the 1970s era of the master’s oeuvre, that is how fashion is right now, and in bringing it a rock-chick slant he is doing no more than Yves did in his day.
An area that Slimane has adopted more obviously is a penchant for artistic influences. Sequinned Van Gogh jackets and graphic Mondrian dresses were among Yves Saint Laurent’s best-known work, but typically Slimane turns to the contemporary and challenging – in this case, California-based multimedia conceptual artist John Baldessari, who works as much with text and photography as paint. Slimane discovered his work as a student in Paris and later photographed him, and this season turned artworks from Baldessari’s archive into his show invitation.Furthermore, Slimane obtained the artist’s permission to interpret three of his paintings and collages on simple dresses (first, second and third pictures) with extraordinary, glowing, handworked embroidery that reflects the texture of the originals. They involve long, painstaking work and only 10 copies of the three designs are being made, one of each for the Baldessari archive and the rest scattered through Saint Laurent flagship stores worldwide. One of each arrives in London at the Sloane Street store on Monday August 11 (price on request). Perhaps that is as it should be for a piece of wearable art in the best YSL tradition.