During his tenure as creative director of Saint Laurent, Hedi managed to raise a series of questions inside the fashion industry; he started controversies with his collections among critics and clients alike, as well as with his whole approach on rebranding the YSL universe. Despite the lack of appraisals from fashion journalists, Hedi’s collections were instant favorites of the public, and of the members of the Slimane “cult”. Since 2012, Saint Laurent, the rebranded ready to wear line, has doubled its sale revenues, becoming one of the most profitable brand of the Kering Luxury Group. But how did he do it? What were the ingredients of Slimane’s success at Saint Laurent? First of all I think it was Hedi Slimane’s name; but in the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet – “what’s in a name”? Well, in Hedi’s case, his name is linked to the success he had at Dior Homme (his first Reform project) with his adoption of a skinny silhouette that ended up changing the landscape of menswear, his connections with the art world and with the intricate and exclusive world of celebrities, and his intimate and visually delicate portraits from his photographic era.
But why the need to change the name of the brand? At the beginning, some people felt that dropping “Yves” from the label was a sign of disrespect. But in fact this was merely going back to the original branding that Yves had used when he first introduced ready-to-wear. The return to the original name was also a part of Hedi’s strategy which included the transition from a loud branding strategy focusing on logo to a more quite one focusing on subtle tailoring details, and the launch of a permanent collection composed of signature pieces that are available season after season. He managed to reintroduce timeless products in an era governed by seasonal “IT” items. And isn’t this what luxury is supposed to be about? Hedi’s intention was to protect the name of Yves Saint Laurent which will be used for the Haute Couture line Hedi envisioned, which should have been launched this year, but with Slimane departure from the brand a few months ago, the future of this project is currently uncertain.
Another interesting thing Hedi did, which yet again resembles Yves understanding of modernity, was to find inspiration for his collections on the streets, thus questioning the exclusivity of luxury. He also launched a series of projects which aimed at reigniting the brand’s relationship with rock stars, and the music scene (the collaboration with Daft Punk, the Saint Laurent campaign in which music stars such as Kim Gordon, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, and Ariel Pink were shot by Hedi himself).
As a matter of fact, all of the visual campaigns for the Saint Laurent collections were shot by Slimane in his recognizable black and white style. Such collaborations have been at the core of the house since its earliest days, when Yves Saint Laurent was dressing the likes of Marianne Faithfull, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger. Saint Laurent at the Palladium was the creative director’s last show, and what a show it was. Held at the Palladium concert hall on Sunset Boulevard, the 2016 Fall/Winter collection was a parade of sleek and polished rock and roll ensembles, with a touch of youthful ennui wrapped up in vintage nostalgia. For the designer, L.A. is a perfect observatory of popular culture and of inspiring sub-cultures which have influenced every one of his collections for Saint Laurent.
Slimane designed for Saint Laurent a universe for the type of customer who desires perfectly executed, impeccably made and literally ready to wear clothes which offer a glimpse into another kind of luxury.
TO BE CONTINUED