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Friday fashion: Generation X Factor in the big houses

Call it a domino affect, but last year’s abrupt exit of John Galliano from the house of Dior sparked a round of musical chairs that may actually be the advent of a new guard in high fashion. With the appointment of Raf Simmons as creative director of Christian Dior, and Hedi Slimane taking charge of Yves Saint Laurent, it appears that Generation X, with their alternative musings, and counter-cultural leanings, are about to become the establishment.

Both the house of Dior and YSL are, at heart, revolutionary and risk taking, with Dior being the symbol of civility immediately following WWII and Saint Laurent ushering in the Jet-Set culture. Their aesthetics were always bold Pinched-waist, full volume skirts, and tuxedo pantsuits pour filles, weren’t always de rigueur. And where Galliano’s vision for Dior was about dramatic—though brilliant—presentations, the opulence turned out to be too big, and sometimes failed.

Mr. Simons on the other hand is known as a minimalist. A man that has embraced the future with all the anxieties the unknown produces, along with the energy of today. His collections for his eponymous label suggest a subversive language that acknowledges the establishment, only to reject it. Think suit shorts in autumn. This was magnified in his pared down collections for Jil Sander.

Similarly, Slimane, who oversaw YSL’s mens line in the mid 90’s, brought fierce and immediate change to the house, as well as to Dior Homme. He eschewed the beefcake model for the cerebral pallor-chic of the waif, a new male archetype. His return to the label, and his first go at womens wear, has all the makings of the prodigal son returning from a life of exile in, oh, high-fashion and rock-culture photography.

Both Simons and Slimane were born in 1968 (groovy) and have long been seen as rivals. With a sort of chatter over who understood the underground, and presented it best, amongst the cognoscenti. Both are revered for their strong points of view, but they garnered press by capturing the zeitgeist of independent culture. What does this mean for major houses that rely heavily on unadulterated, chic style for the aspiring masses? It’s like imagining Richard Linklater making a sequel to THE NOTEBOOK and it working. But this is actually happening.

Generation X’s rejection of pomp and overt opulence, for a more subdued, quiet, and discerning approach to glamour is the direct inverse of everything fashion has been for the last decade. Raf already expressed his desire to embrace femininity at Dior. Hedi has already begun work on his first resort collection. It seems like we’re heading for an immediate swing of the pendulum by designers that seem ambivalent to the results.