The Genteel
November 24, 2020


The Rolling Stones in 1967. Source:
Rolling Stones Hedi Slimane Saint Laurent Paris
Hedi Slimane. Source:

Rock 'n' roll legends, The Rolling Stones, are about to embark on a four-date tour to commemorate 50 years in the business in what could be the last chapters of a glittering music career. To add a little mystique to the proceedings, there is a whispering campaign pushing the idea that the creative director of Saint Laurent Paris, baiter of New York fashion journalists and friend to rock royalty, Hedi Slimane, will dress the stone-age rockers for their upcoming performances. But is the French-born designer the right man for the job?

Warming up their (not quite) septuagenarian limbs with their first live performance since 2007, The Rolling Stones thrilled hundreds of fans with a "secret" gig held at the intimate Parisian rock club La Trabendo, last week. The band announced the gig via Twitter on the morning of the concert, illustrating that age isn't a barrier to social media marketing. Maybe this example of keeping up-to-date with a world that has changed dramatically since the Stones first started out in London in 1962 gives some indication of the generational staying power of the supreme rock and roll beat combo. 

Of course, it's the music that drives the Stones, but their style and influence on fashion also set them apart from their contemporaries. Since their initial formulaic Beatles-clone attire, Mick and the boys have been the leaders of many trends throughout the decades. From the Brian Jones "Prince Valiant" furs and velvet look onto the Jumpin' Jack Flash era of ringmaster hats, flag capes and revealing jumpsuits of the late-1960s, the Stones have provided many iconic fashion moments. 

Like that other famous British institution - James Bond - the Stones have rolled into their 50th year. do you dress the band that brought style, panache, attitude and individuality to the world of rock music? 

The women in their lives played a vital part in the story of the Stones' music and enduring fashion credibility. Italian-born model Anita Pallenberg was unofficially known as the sixth member of the band - such was her influence over them. As the partner of Keith Richards, she held the key to the Stones' androgynous-bohemian period, in which kohl eyeliner, printed neck scarves and wide-brimmed velvet hats became de rigueur. It was Pallenberg that led the boys into the 1970s, drug addled but looking good on it. She was soon upstaged by the pure glamour of Nicaraguan beauty Bianca Jagger, the queen of New York's Studio 54 and the woman that influenced husband Mick into wearing a certain Latin-inspired white suit that remains a memorable Stones image to this day.

In hindsight, these earlier years have arguably been to be the band's "moment in the sun" musically, artistically and stylistically speaking. Strong of will, but lacking somewhat in the creative energy needed to reproduce the vibrancy and quality of their early material, the Stones have still managed keep the show rolling through the past three decades. Like that other famous British institution - James Bond - the Stones have rolled into their 50th year. But there is one burning question that needs to be answered: how do you dress the band that brought style, panache, attitude and individuality to the world of rock music? 

One man who may have the answer is the 44-year-old French-born, Italian-Tunisian designer, photographer and new creative director of Saint Laurent Paris, Hedi Slimane. Fresh from ruffling feathers with the renaming of the house of YSL, a disappointing first collection for the brand, and a well-publicised spat with influential fashion writer Cathy Horyn, the man who brought the ground-breaking "skinny silhouette" look to Dior Homme menswear line in 2000, has the credentials to bring The Rolling Stones back to life.

Rolling Stones Hedi Slimane 50 years tour
Bianca and Mick Jagger. Source:

Slimane has already produced stage wear for Mick Jagger before, when he created designs for the "skinny-hipped" front man for the Stones' mammoth A Bigger Bang Tour (2005-07) - just think sleek jackets and lycra-sheen super-tight bum-huggers - but his professional relationships with rock stars is nothing new.

Slimane became associated with a new wave of early noughties "indie" musicians - including Jack White, Franz Ferdinand, The Kills and The Libertines - who would champion Slimane's ultra-thin designs with their punk-inspired drainpipe trousers, skinny black ties, short-waisted jackets and close-fitted blazers. He also sponsored up and coming bands, especially a plethora of Brit guitar bands to create original soundtracks for the Dior Homme catwalk shows. Razorlight's In the Morning was composed especially for the A/W 2005 show.

It was the vilified Pete Doherty, Libertines member and now ex-boyfriend of Kate Moss, who really caught Slimane's eye. So much so that he based his portrait diary London: Birth of a Cult (2005), on the enigmatic singer-songwriter. Slimane spent 18 months artfully documenting the chrysalis-stage of the rocker and the scene from which he emerged; a gritty lifestyle that the tabloid media frenzied upon at the time. Slimane lovingly chronicled the life of the "wasted wastrel" as success gradually consumed the London-based singer-songwriter before the drugs finally dragged him down. 

If Slimane wasn't a world famous designer it wouldn't be amiss to call him a groupie; so consumed by the rock and roll aesthetic of skinny boys and their taste for narcotics - like a moth to a flame.

Slimane felt that he had captured a very rare thing in the rise and fall of Doherty, to whom he felt a special affinity. "People always get trapped into the same stories and same cliches of rock," he said in an interview with The Guardian in 2005. "But I had the feeling they were missing the point. And they were not seeing what was poetic about him; and musically really strong. And so I thought I could help out a little bit to at least balance the impression people had." 

Doherty is one of many rock stars who have followed the trajectory of The Rolling Stones template: otherworldly original talent; exuberant breakthrough; critical acclaim; experimenting with drugs, and in the case of Doherty, ending in career self-destruction. The fact that Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie are still standing and about to embark on their 50th year in the business of rock 'n' roll is truly astonishing. Whereas the Stones have earned the right to wear just about anything in their forthcoming shows, it would represent the symbiotic culmination of genres for Slimane in fusing music and fashion.

But there lies the rub. If Slimane wasn't a world famous designer it wouldn't be amiss to call him a groupie; so consumed by the rock 'n' roll aesthetic of skinny boys and their taste for narcotics - like a moth to a flame. Following on the mixed reception and sluice of negative publicity he received for his first collection for Saint Laurent Paris, Slimane seems to have absorbed the rock 'n' roll outsider schtick into his soul - upsetting the status quo and doing things his way. The Rolling Stones on the other hand, hung up rebellion in the 1970s and are now antiquated pillars of society who play their music to the crowd. Rather than being the perfect fit for Slimane, the combustible French designer should seek out a new underground scene to dress - one that is capturing the zeitgeist of now rather than revisiting the relics of the 1960s.



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