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Men's fashion revolutionary prepares Yves Saint Laurent collection - The National


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Men's fashion revolutionary prepares Yves Saint Laurent collection - The National

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Hedi Slimane designs for Yves Saint Laurent promise a groundbreaking new look for men. AFP PHOTO

Men's fashion revolutionary prepares Yves Saint Laurent collection

Fashion moments in menswear are rare in that they are few and far between. Not because they matter any less than in womenswear, of course, but that they simply don't draw the same attention.

For a start, things are far more restrictive than in womenswear in terms of fabric, shape, structure and form, and are far less glamorous. Unlike the unpredictable nature of womenswear, what we see in the menswear swhows are mostly suits, shirts, jackets and coats. Then there are the strict rules that men adhere to in certain social situations: black tie, white tie, casual, dressy casual, business casual, morning suits, dinner suits; it's all terribly boring.

So when something groundbreaking comes along we make a fair amount of fuss. It's what we call a menswear revolution and we had the last one a decade ago, thanks to Hedi Slimane.

Slimane, a French-born, Italian-Tunisian designer and photographer, is the man responsible for a seismic shift of ideals in the 1990s.

He is arguably the most influential menswear designer of the 21st century and is best known for changing the course of men's fashion design and attitudes to the male silhouette during his time at Dior Homme. He is coming back for another collection at Yves Saint Laurent so we expect another revolution quite soon.

Slimane arrived at a time when traditional views on male beauty were adopted - ripened muscles, a square jaw topped off with a fair amount of testosterone - yet managed to turn things upside down almost overnight. His shows were the first of their kind. Instead of adopting the usual model casting processes, he focused on "real people" and sent boys - with little or no modelling experience whom he had discovered - down the runway much to the outrage of the press. He wanted his clothes to be worn, to have a character and, most importantly to personify his design skill. He made sure each carefully chosen character was to have a prominent role in his show and advertising campaigns, even sewing the names into the garments that they had been chosen to wear.

But it was in his cutting technique that Slimane really made his mark. He produced jackets that were cut particularly short, with narrow, boxy shoulders; a look that would have been dismissed previously as feminine, and was a little shocking at the time. It was also here, at his time at the helm of Dior Homme, that he pioneered the skinny jean for men. Everything was cut with a sharp line - razor slim with an aggressive edge - perhaps as an offset to the luxurious and sensual fabrics that were used in his designs. Without doubt, he inspired the birth of the rock'n'roll suit, adopted by the indie music scene in the UK from bands such as Razorlight and The Libertines.

As fashion editors, we get the opportunity to view the new collections, trends and movements first. We feel safe in the knowledge that we are ahead of the game, and hopeful that something will come along that will stop us in our tracks, something that will be groundbreaking. We know enough to tell you it's all in the details. The tiny changes - an interesting shirt collar, a knitted tie, a buttonless blazer or a collarless shirt - will set a designer apart from the rest when it comes to style.

Which is exactly what Slimane is all about (he famously sewed clear sequins to find inside his trouser pleats). For it is these moments we wait patiently for. Who knows what he will bring us? That's half the fun, for here is a man who obviously has no interest in commercial fashion, but has a great deal in design and luxury.

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