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Saint Laurent AW16
Saint Laurent AW16Courtesy of Saint Laurent

What happened at last night’s Saint Laurent show

Personalised seats, no music, 80s-inspired couture and lots of rumours – here’s your guide to Saint Laurent AW16

“Is this his last?” This was the question on everybody’s minds at last night’s Saint Laurent show. For several months now, rumours have been circulating that Hedi Slimane is stepping down from his position as creative director of the house, with Donatella Versace’s protege Anthony Vaccarello hotly tipped as his successor. These rumours were heightened at last month’s menswear show, staged at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Palladium, which had the feeling of a ‘greatest hits retrospective’ about it.

Last night’s show, at the tail-end of the AW16 show season, had a similarly celebratory feeling to it: Slimane seemed to pop the cork with an explosion of riotous 80s glamour. That said, more than ever, the designer seemed to be uniting his world with that of the house’s founder. He staged the show at its newly reinstated couture atelier on the rue de l'Université and eschewed show music for a narrator who worked for Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent and, last night, announced each model’s exit. Here are five things you need to know about the show.


Fashion show attendees are used to having their seats marked, though this usually translates to a piece of paper or card bearing a name, letter or number – ‘A-1’. But guests at last night’s show were met with chairs bearing golden nameplates engraved with their names, taking the luxuriousness of the experience to the next level. Vanessa Friedman, the New York Times fashion director and critic, commented that the experience was “a show first for me.”


Show music has become central to the experience of a fashion show, communicating the designer’s vision to the audience, as well as helping set the models’ pace. The industry’s DJs or ‘sound architects’ – such as Michel Gaubert and Frédéric Sanchez – have become legends in their own right for the musical concoctions they produce. Returning to the traditional way of presenting haute couture, the only sound to be heard was that of French narrator Bénédicte de Ginestous announcing each exit – she did the same at every one of Yves Saint Laurent’s shows between 1977 and 2002.


Some designers have extremely distinctive casting. Donatella Versace favours strong supermodels; Olivier Rousteing, Instagram It-girls; Gosha Rubchinskiy, shaven-headed skate kids. Slimane’s muses are rake-thin and indie, and last night’s models were no exception: many of his runway favourites took to the catwalk, from Kiki Willems to Lida Fox (who walked for the brand exclusively), Lili Sumner and Marjan Jonkman.


We’re used to seeing Hedi Slimane tap into a bygone era for inspiration – in the past, we’ve seen him cite various musical subcultures, from 60s rock’n’roll to 90s grunge. Eschewing ready-to-wear for couture, this season the designer looked not to a subculture but a style epoch: 80s glamour. Tailoring was tight, skirts were short, shoulders were poufy, waists were cinched, fabrics were sequinned and leather was ruched, or else punctured with eyelets. The overall effect was loud and lurid in the most luxurious, well-executed way.


Envisioned by hair stylist Didier Malige and make-up artist Aaron de Mey, the show’s beauty looks also had a sense of retro glamour. Models wore smoky eye make-up and punchy red lipstick which seemed borrowed from the 1970s photography of Guy Bourdin, who was known for his glossy portrayals of the decade’s high fashion and hedonism.