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Monday Muse: Los Angeles Inspires Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent

Joni Mitchell

Stevie Nicks

Donna Karan has built an entire fashion empire based on the energy and style of New York, so it’s about time that another designer harnessed the creativity found in Los Angeles to do the same. Leave it to designer Hedi Slimane, a Euro expat formerly at the helm of Dior Homme, to latch onto the unique sensibilities of Los Angeles and create an entire collection recalling the heyday of L.A. bohemia for his debut collection at Saint Laurent. With so many different aspects of the city to pull from, including the laid-back luxury of Malibu to the over-glossed silicone beauties of Hollywood and the off-kilter quirk of Silverlake and Echo Park, the city is ripe with inspiration.

In the ’70s, L.A. style was epitomized by the Laurel Canyon lady. Personified by songbirds such as Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell, the look was all about long layers, a tinge of witchy underground cool and plenty of accessories. Stevie was rarely seen without a shawl and hat while Joni sang while wearing caftans and long maxi-dresses that looked like they’d been collected during spiritual sojourns. At the time, Los Angeles was a stark contrast to the glitz and glam of New York, where disco fed the fashion industry. On the more relaxed and casual West Coast, the influence came from artists, New Age spirituality and the burgeoning folk music scene. As Mitchell and Nicks gained more notoriety, fashion was taking notice and the singers’ boho je ne sais quoi began to take hold on the runways. Designers such as Anna Sui built their brands on the back of this movement, giving wannabe chanteurs a closet full of babydoll dresses and long silhouettes.

Saint Laurent Spring 2013

Saint Laurent Spring 2013

Fast forward a few decades and now the celeb culture of Los Angeles and the fashion world are so tightly knit that they’re almost indiscernible (especially with celebrity designers becoming more and more common).

Hedi Slimane, who gained notoriety at the helm of Dior Homme, was appointed as the Creative Director of Yves Saint Laurent, where he quickly began to infuse the brand with his own DNA.

First the name change (YSL became simply Saint Laurent Paris) and the uprooting of the brand’s headquarters from Paris’ Left Bank to America’s Left Coast. Slimane has called L.A. home for years.  where he worked on his photography. As his first collection for the house emerged,  it became clear  that his work at the label would be heavily influenced by the style of L.A., past and present.

His collection, which showed at the Grand Palais in Paris, showed models wearing floor-grazing gowns in luxe suedes and light-as-air chiffons. Each model walked out topped by an oversized hat (a nod to Nicks?) and long-sleeved dresses that instantly brought ’70s songstresses to mind. It was a huge statement, but Slimane’s collection of editorial — not to mention flashbulb-ready — and commercial pieces garnered high praise and the attention of the entire fashion world. Call it a combination of black magic and sartorial savoir faire, because we could see both Stevie and Veruschka wearing any of his pieces today.

Photos courtesy Fleetwood Mac, and Joni Mitchell