Hedi Slimane had turned the house that Yves Saint Laurent built in the 1960s on its wide brim–hatted head. When the Liberty-print baby doll dresses tromped down the fall runway, the spirit of Courtney Love rose through the air—entirely apropos, considering she appears in the luxe label’s fall ads, along with Marilyn Manson, shot by the designer himself. For those who lived through the grunge revolution the first time around, the mirror image is too familiar. For the ’90s-born, it’s a virginal fashion frolic.
Look closely and you’ll find the luxury behind the under- ground movement’s most flattering imitation. Plaid sweaters are not of thrift shop thread but plush mohair, shredded jeans are replaced with spliced lambskin leggings, ripped fishnets are now $1,360 Swarovski beaded tights. From afar, consider the multi-tiered paradox of a gossamer gold plunging-V dress à la Courtney-does-Marilyn, blanketed in a Johnny Depp cast-off flannel shirt. Like it or not, the cash registers are chiming with a dirty monotone clang.
And what of the catwalk’s matted manes and grease paint–blackened eyes? We challenged YSL’s creative director Lloyd Simmonds to reinvent the era’s Nevermind beauty approach as so many are now doing with clothes (Rodarte and Givenchy also went there). But like that of today’s youth, the authentic experience wasn’t Simmonds’ own. He worked in Milan during the 1990s, and grunge was strictly an American phenomenon. Though he witnessed the trend on the pages of Italian Vogue, he didn’t really appreciate the look at the time. “I like things a bit more dressed up,” says Simmonds, making him the perfect candidate to bring uptown to downtown.
What he came up with was five glamorously grunge looks. “It’s the kind of beauty that’s not finished perfectly,” he sums up. “It’s always got a little rough edge.” He mined the moodboard—Kate Moss, Kurt and Courtney, Winona Ryder—using the brand’s aptly themed fall collection. But his true inspiration was more visceral. “This is what the real it-girls are like,” Simmonds says. “They already look like this, so it’s just another way of giving them more to play with.”
Downtown Vs. Uptown: Inspiration for these two opposing palettes came when Simmonds landed in New York City, where he was struck by the neon lights and, the next day, the brickwork and pavement under daylight. YSL Pure Chromatics City Drive Palettes in Arty and Classy, $74 each.
Grunge’s First Glamour Girls: The sassy, sometime-classsy ’90s muses who inspired our shoot. (From left) Gwen Stefani, 1997; Winona Ryder, 1999; Courtney Love, 1999; Kate Moss, 1990.
See a behind-the-scenes look at our ’90s-inspired grunge shoot below: