Déjà, Who?

BY Roxanne Robinson

Nostalgia takes on various guises for two French designers 

No matter the decade, Parisian style has a certain je ne sais quoi. Both Olivier Rousteing for Balmain and Hédi Slimane for Celine explore different eras this season. The result shows evolution on one side and a patrician attitude on the other.


Showing up to a cocktail party or work when your nemesis turns up in the exact same outfit yields super awkward moments for the wearer. But what if the other partygoers and staff felt the same uncomfortable feeling? That might be how those who had attended Tuesday night’s Saint Laurent show felt watching Hédi Slimane’s Spring 2020 show for Celine. The designer revisited more of his bourgeoisie trend-setting mood for Fall, but this time plucking the exact same mood and collection (gypsy scarves to boot!) in many cases as Vaccarello did at Saint Laurent when he paid homage to Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Russian peasant collection for Spring 2020 as well. Double takes aplenty.

Full disclosure, no argument here for channeling that ever-cool 1970s mood: tight, flared denim jeans worn with short fur or leather jackets, tiered prairie skirts, off-the-shoulder peasant dresses, boho blouses, gauchos galore and VESTS!!! All paired with a cool stack heel boot and long shoulder bags grazing the hips. What’s not to love?

The execution was completely modern, however, with a set which resembled the mind slayer creature on Stranger Things, with its mechanical appendages glowing like molten metal. The music, a freshly produced original score “Calling It” by Automatic and Joo Joo Ashworth hinted at Slimane’s provocative tendencies with lyrics: “It’s harder to remember to hold it all together; the limit of a one-way street.”

Slimane is known to hone in on a cultural zeitgeist. He knows that capturing that French girl cool is what half the world is still searching for. And maybe he feels they got a little lost along the way and Friday’s show reminded us, at times verbatim, what the carefree effortless style of a Parisian lady walking down the street still looks like today. 

The buzz surrounding last season’s collection was that top brass were not happy with the first one and contractually his clothes must sell so the Fall collection shown was whipped together last minute for a back to the basics collection. But it was full of retail gold – the perfect blazer or cape, nice tweeds, a full skirt and tall boots. So, spring continues to play it safe and give the people what they want. Betcha that faux Celine University sweatshirt flies off shelves globally. Vintage versions of real schools are what every teenage girl wears daily, if you hadn’t noticed.

So, let the games begin, kind of like a celebrity “who wore it best” feature showing the same look on two different celebs, except this version will be the same look by two different designers and the winner is the one who can make more cash for their luxury boss’s stash.


Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing is the poster child for many things. For example, the first designer of color to helm a major European fashion house. And for the 30 and under generations, he is the luxury designer of choice. This generation, among other things, is currently obsessed with all things Nineties. Kudos to Rousteing for brushing aside the typical reference points for designers these days – the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties – and focusing on one for his set.

Ironically picking a 60s song lyric as his collection title “Talkin ‘Bout My Generation,” Rousteing celebrated the music and styles of the 90s seen through today’s lens. So, what did that combo result in? First and foremost was a loosening of the silhouette and overall a much lighter effect to his designs. Props for the evolution, Olivier!

With a mainly Brittany Spears-centric soundtrack, the designer sent out his interpretations of the era. Styling tricks including T-shirts with a gown skirt; exposed midriffs on cropped jackets and bandeau tops; legging-fit bell bottoms and the first wave of high-waisted skinny jeans in bright colors – a very Versace moment; chokers; double-breasted blazers hanging off the shoulder as well as those looking very St. John, all fit the 90s vibe. 

But one could easily argue that the overall effect was 60s with modern art-inspired geometric shapes. Long tunic gowns cut down to the navel and up to the crotch, bedecked with oversized jewelry that was part of the garment, had whiffs of Paco Rabanne and Courrèges. Ditto for the asymmetrical one-leg trouser ensembles. 80s Grace Jones made an appearance in some hooded looks.

Whichever decade the designer channeled, he once again demonstrated the couture-level craftsmanship with the extensive embellishments, beading and embroidery on the collection. Bringing it to today, the designer collaborated with the Diamond Foundry on PC lab-created diamonds and makeup with pal Kylie Jenner, noted but not in attendance due to health reasons.

Perhaps all the looks didn’t hold the same appeal and the show could have used some editing, but Rousteing’s language speaks loud and clear to his generation.

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