Saint Laurent at The Palladium: L.A.'s Counterculture Clash as Seen by the Eyes of the French

Palladium Runway Split - H 2016
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Palladium Runway Split - H 2016

You best believe you'll soon be seeing Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba and Justin Bieber — all present at the Palladium show that took place Feb. 10 — wearing Hedi Slimane's fall glam-rock ensembles that had their glittery debut on a Hollywood runway instead of a red carpet.

The cliche that it often takes an outsider to best observe a place's true essence is cliched for a reason. In the case of Frenchman-turned-Angeleno Hedi Slimane, no Parisian designer has ever seen truer into the dark-but-glittery heart of L.A.: its rock 'n' roll history, its bohemian style, its historic mash-up of classic rock, punk and Goth styles and dandyism. Slimane took all of that and turned it into an homage to the original Yves St. Laurent Le Smoking '70s style at his startling and standing ovation-inducing Saint Laurent fall and pre-fall show at the Palladium on Wednesday (Feb. 10). Slimane hit 2016 on the head with the unlikely blend of the 50th anniversary of YSL's career-defining Rive Gauche collection and today's '70s-saturated nostalgia that is peaking with the death of David Bowie and the debut of HBO's new Vinyl, premiering this weekend. 

No wonder rumors are rife that Slimane might be the next couturier at Dior or even take the reins of Chanel one day. With Alber Elbaz and Raf Simons out of the French fashion picture — and Phoebe Philo possibly departing Chloe — Slimane is proving himself fashion's man of the moment. 

What SoCal front row would be complete without a large celebrity contingent, particularly at the height of awards season and Grammy mania? Louis Vuitton had 'em — so did Burberry and Stella McCartney — but the celeb representation here was pretty staggering: Jane Fonda, Sly Stallone, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Lady Gaga with Lee Daniels (a match made in music-TV heaven), Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Lenny Kravitz, Joan Jett, Courtney Love, Sam Smith, Gary Oldman, Giovanni Ribisi, New York fashion elite Grace Coddington and Hamish Bowles, the Fanning sisters in glitter eyeshadow, Justin Bieber skateboarding into the Palladium in a Saint Laurent red-satin bomber ... even Kering top honcho Monsieur Francois-Henri Pinault made an appearance, albeit without wife Salma Hayek. And the live musical acts that played at the 3,000-person afterparty crossed all ages and boundaries: Beck, Father John Misty, Joan Jett, No Parents, Bleached, The Sloths — if that doesn't represent L.A.'s rock history and present, what does?!

The Palladium was dark and cavernous, containing seating for a thousand set around the giant auditorium, with runway and audience both on ground level. Strobe-lit dark cranes descended from the ceiling like some machine-age monster out of a Michael Bay movie to introduce the show, which featured super-skinny male models — skinnier than their female counterparts — crossing the floor.

Yes, Slimane's the man who made men manorexic: His Dior Homme skinny suits admittedly coaxed Karl Lagerfeld into a life of Diet Coke and grilled fish. But the skinny '80s suits are gone, replaced by three-piece tuxedo flare styles, for both ladies and gents, reminiscent of those worn by David Bowie and made by Biba of London. The silhouette's still shrunken, just referencing the glitter of T. Rex and Mott the Hoople with some of the punk-dandy stance of The Ramones and The New York Dolls thrown in.

One Hollywood insider wondered if Slimane — who took a very rare bow at the end of the show, sporting long hair, a loose sweater, scarf and barely a remnant of his hollow-eyed, rockabilly, shrunken-suit styling of yore — could have received very early copies of the new Martin Scorsese- and MIck Jagger-produced HBO music drama Vinyl. The series features killer costumes by John Dunn that are an utter homage to the midi A-line skirts and pussy-bow blouses of Brit '70s sensation Ossie Clarke, much like what Slimane showed. We'll never know, as the reclusive designer rarely gives interviews. But given that this collection had to have been conceived many months ago, and the recent men's shows in New York and Europe also gave homage to Bowie, Slimane has clearly just hit the zeitgeist, as this look has been part of the Saint Laurent aesthetic since the designer reinvented the brand four years ago. 

Fonda was heard to comment after the show: "They called Stallone to offer a tux for the Oscars — so he wound up attending his first fashion show!" And what was the '70s diva herself wearing? A Saint Laurent flared tux suit, complete with smattering of glitter. True, Slimane's ladies looks of late have all been mini and grunge: more Courtney Love than Holly Harp or Olivia Wilde in Vinyl. But for this show, he sent out leather culottes, tight metallic boots, embroidered tux jackets, bowed blouses (a staple of his) and midi lengths that no doubt provoked the bare-legged young women in the crowd to think, "I must hit the vintage stores — fast." The palette focused on black, adding gold, glitter, reds and mustards: a '70s colorwheel if there ever was one. Silk blouse-dresses in bottle green and white will no doubt turn up on Hudson and Cate Blanchett within weeks. Stylist Karla Welch, in a glitter suit jacket and accompanied by client Bieber, gasped afterwards: "All. I want it ALL."

Both McCartney's recent pre-fall show at Amoeba Records in Hollywood and Saint Laurent celebrated L.A.'s rockers and bypassed stereotypical Old Hollywood red-carpet glamour, which means awards-show looks could get a lot more retro and rocked out. Will the Grammys be more covered up and glam rock and less of a naked skin parade than they were last year? One thing's for sure: The upcoming fall shows for women, now kicking off in New York, are going to have longer lengths, more patchwork, more glitter and messier hair than ever. The '70s aren't going away, even though we've seen them about three seasons now. And Hedi Slimane, well, he's going wherever he wants. Which is great — as long as he stays in L.A.!