Donatella Versace once told me that the red carpet was the new eveningwear catwalk. Donatella Versace says plenty of stuff like that – she gives great soundbite, and generally grins knowingly as she spouts something controversial. She once also told me Versace's men's underwear business was “huge” while we were both of us staring at the underpanted groin of a male model emerging from a pair of Village People-style chaps. With no trousers underneath. I'm sure it is, but I've been lingering more on what she said about the red carpet, and the impact that has on designers.
This time last year, Tom Ford chose to skip London Fashion Week and present his autumn/winter 2015 womenswear collection in Los Angeles, to coincide with the Academy Awards. On 10 February, Saint Laurent will do the same with its autumn/winter 2016 menswear collection, despite the word “Paris” being on the label. Its show is scheduled the week of the Grammy Awards, and will be shown at the Hollywood Palladium, generally used for rock concerts, which designer Hedi Slimane often orchestrates his catwalk shows to resemble. There's a symbiosis.
It's striking that Saint Laurent has opted to do it, though. It's the first time the brand has stepped away from a traditional bi-annual Paris showcase – even through the addictions, collapses and mental breakdowns of Monsieur Saint Laurent himself, the show still went on. Tom Ford is a bell-wether; but he's also an independent operator who can pretty much determine his own path. Slimane and Saint Laurent are part of the Kering luxury conglomerate. Despite the autonomy afforded to Slimane, who has famously redesigned Saint Laurent in his own image – skinny, modern, streamlined – by re-engineering everything from logo to stores, and shooting the brand's advertising campaigns, I wonder how they justified shifting the show halfway across the world, to a time, place and location that can be attended by relatively few.
Few fashion press, that is. For celebrities – musicians, actors, assorted glitterati – Hollywood makes much more sense. LA is also where Slimane based his studio. I'm less interested in the clothing Saint Laurent will show, than in the concept as a whole. Chasing of awards ceremonies is a very interesting notion, especially as we're in two months where they occur almost back to back, coverage of the celebrities wearing whom and what often wresting space from new stories about the same brands' collections. Which would designers rather have – critical discourse, or a pretty picture of a pretty celebrity looking pretty with a brand name boldly affixed? Furthermore, which reaches a wider audience? There's your justification. I suppose it's sort of a no-brainer. But brainless fashion isn't something we need any more of.