"Paris face-off: Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons in the spotlight," read the headline of fashion bible Women's Wear Daily's Paris preview earlier this week. As the season gathers momentum it is true that these two former menswear designers, who now head Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior womenswear respectively, and whose debut ready-to-wear collections are being shown only days apart, look set to dominate the proceedings in the French capital and the international collections as a whole.
"I think it will be an exciting season in Paris," Karl Lagerfeld commented. "It's stimulating and both [Simons and Slimane] are people with a lot of talent." Praise indeed and it is not insignificant that Lagerfeld, ever in possession of the most finely tuned fashion instincts, has long championed both designers, famously losing weight to fit into the skinny vision of masculinity that Slimane gave the world at the turn of the millennium and, more recently, wearing Raf Simons's signature menswear with pride.
Slimane, who is showing his collection on Monday, rose to prominence as head of menswear at Yves Saint Laurent in the late 1990s, going on to light up the catwalk in a seven-year stint at Dior Homme in the Noughties.
The equally influential Simons came into the spotlight in the late 1990s, too, working under his own name, and it can surely be no coincidence that his first collection for Dior haute couture, shown in Paris in July, opened with a Le Smoking tuxedo – probably the late M Saint Laurent's most iconic contribution to women's fashion.
Finally, Christian Dior is owned by LVMH (Moët Hennessy, Louis Vuitton) and Yves Saint Laurent by PPR (Pinault Printemps, La Redoute), France's two largest, most powerful and rival luxury goods conglomerates, suggesting that the world of designer fashion is set to become a more interesting place.
It is, of course, not unusual for designers today to oversee both men's and women's collections – Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Gucci's Frida Giannini, Giorgio Armani, Miuccia Prada and many more are already responsible for dressing both sexes. However, it is more common for a designer to start out in womenswear and move into the traditionally quieter and less fast-moving menswear arena than vice versa.
And that will also have resonance. Stripped of the frills and furbelows of women's fashion, menswear – and particularly menswear as designed by Simons and Slimane – has an architectural precision and modernity and an eye on proportion that will doubtless colour the way women in the near future choose to dress.
The forthcoming spring season has already established itself as one more allied to a less showy aesthetic and with a greater emphasis on tailoring. The presence of Simons and Slimane will only up the ante where that is concerned, ensuring that women who would rather embrace a more understated and contemporary wardrobe will have much to choose from.Reuse content