Hedi Slimane’s growing series of invitation booklets for SAINT LAURENT encapsulates the designer’s goal to mutate the contemporary culture of Los Angeles with Parisian haute tradition and craft. Each book is around 100 pages, perfect-bound between a black notebook cover, and designed by a different LA-based artist. And as veritable art editions disguised as invitations, they are also the strongest overlooked element of the Saint Laurent hype machinery—small monuments to ephemeral, one-off events.
The contributing artists range from the canonical—John Baldessari and Raymond Pettibon—to the emerging—Theodora Allen—to the bygone—Guy de Cointet—creating a catalog of Slimane’s creative relationships that is as informal and open ended as it is stylistically magnetic. These are the printed-matter prototypes for Slimane’s newfound leadership of the established brand. Designed as complex, sentimental, and, perhaps most significantly, disconnected entrance points into a singular aesthetic world, they are smart decoys for a company that foremost sells ready-to-wear.
They have attitude: Pettibon’s invitation articulates the artist’s usual surfer shriek: “You picked the wrong girl to masturbate to.” Or: “We didn’t have photographs in those days. We had skulls back then.” They are semantic: Baldessari’s contribution is perfectly punny: “IT SERVES YOU RIGHT” is written below an unplugged electrical cord, juxtaposed with an image of dispersed marbles, reading, “THEY DO NOT AGREE.” And they are fun: painter Matt Connors’s edition—the only one in color—engages freely with the histories of abstraction like a good, drunk night of karaoke.
The first in the series, presented for Slimane’s debut S/S 13 collection, is the only one not designed by an artist. Instead, close-up photographs by Slimane of Yves Saint Laurent’s signature “babycat,” or leopard, pattern are sprawled throughout the little black book. It is a fashion-turned-op-art gesture that reassures us that Slimane is indeed in touch with the brand’s past—an initial gesture of trust to an industry that’s becoming increasingly less about inventing fashion than it is about capturing life.