Analysing the antagonism: what is it about Saint Laurent that makes people so angry?

Today is the end of the womenswear shows for autumn/winter 2013.

The writers and editors will be returning to their real-life concerns: paying the mortgage, worrying if their magazine or paper has a future, the usual stuff.

Most are normal people, with normal salaries, and come from normal backgrounds (and to me, “normal” is the highest compliment).

When these clothes actually enter stores, most present at the shows will be able to afford to buy two, maybe three of the thousands of garments and accessories they’ve considered the past month. If they have access to discounts, double that number.

But the agreed language of fashion, all the “must-have”s and “essential piece”s, makes it sound like everyone could have the pick of everything.

Even in this new ready-to-wear landscape where fur bags are the new conglomerate tactic to create even bigger profit margins, and fur coats are considered as everyday.

This new ready-to-wear landscape which is entirely about unreality.

Whenever the levels of the luxury market are raised, it highlights the importance of aspiration.

It’s a word that’s always bandied about to explain the luxury phenomenon, and it’s one that always makes me feel uncomfortable.

If you aspire to be something, you aren’t it.

I want clothing, designed products that fit into my life, not something that I’m supposed to be.

Whether they come from a conglomerate luxury brand, or an independent designer from round the corner.

I think it’s this idea of aspiration which is at the bottom of the Saint Laurent outrage.

Because aspiration is the only filter with which to watch most of these shows: pretending that the fashion fiction at most shows has anything to do with your own real life.

And after a month of shows, that aspiration (exaggerated by the parties, the dinners paid for by PRs etc) can become a hard armour. You can  believe that this fashion fiction world is one that you should defend at all costs.

So when Hedi Slimane presents the exact opposite of understood aspiration at Saint Laurent, it’s seen as a threat.

Because this woman presented isn’t what they consider aspirational.

The number of reviews that were outraged that she wasn’t carrying a handbag.

A handbag!

Insert your own Lady Bracknell comments.

And what do people do at the sign of a threat? They get angry.

Because what Hedi is offering at Saint Laurent is a threat to the polite complicity of the current way of thinking about fashion.

I can feel a flurry of “yes but” arguments against what I’m saying, so I’ll try and deal with them one by one.

“Yes but this will be just as expensive and unattainable” – I’m not arguing that luxury fashion should be cheaper. I’m talking about the reality of what’s presented. It doesn’t have to be all polite ladies in polite dresses.

“Yes but this collection looks cheap” – I’m waiting for people to actually go and try on Hedi’s designs, so they can see the cleverness of the cut and the fit.

“Yes but the show was an exercise in styling” – Not sure how to answer this. If it was an exercise in styling, then I think the styling was incredibly successful, because it put forward such a strong image. Whether you like it or not is a different matter. Taken apart, I’m sure many of those pieces are an absolute pleasure to wear.

“Yes but it’s insulting to the memory of Saint Laurent” – I think it’s incredibly respectful to the memory of Saint Laurent.

I’m sure there are many, many other “yes but”s.

I don’t think Hedi’s show was perfect. I’d love him to be able to loosen up a little. I’d love for Saint Laurent to feel a little more generous.

But that’s never going to happen when the critical mass opinion about him is set on default outrage.

I just wish that this critical mass opinion wasn’t clouded by aspiration, and the threat to aspiration that Hedi is proposing.

Anyway, after Miu Miu this afternoon, the shows are over. And the world keeps turning.