01 Apr Long May Hedi Reign
Francesca Bellettini, President and CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, and François- Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, announced the departure of Hedi Slimane from Saint Laurent.
During his four-year contract at the Parisian fashion house, he transformed the iconic brand into his own vision that triumphed globally on a mass market with his golden touch; growing the sales from €353.7 million in 2011 to €973.7 million in 2015. His collections tore critics apart as he ruffled numerous feathers in the industry, as many hated his rock’n’roll, laid back take on Yves’ extravagant eponymous label, whereas others eternally praised the genius on creating clothing that attributed to their personas. Hedi injected the industry with his take on Saint Laurent, it is has become a figurative era that may not be fully recognized in its time.
Upon Slimane’s arrival in 2012, he bristfully changed the name from Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris, causing an uproar of global controversy however this did not hinder his path to success. His first collection for the house mirrored his life that he had created in Los Angeles while staying true to the aesthetic “norm” of the past. Hedi Slimane’s signature skinny clothing stampeded the runway in Paris, hung upon the bodies of the skinniest models. A year later, his controversy did not hinder from his path as he entered unchartered territory of gender tropes by putting a female model, Saskia de Brauw, as the star for his menswear collection campaign.
Matthew Schneier “He [Slimane] has not merely designed a collection, he has designed a brand.”
In Hedi Slimane’s rare interview with Yahoo Style, he confessed the importance of music in his life and the bullying that was inflicted to him due to his skinny physique as a kid. His campaigns have featured music icons such as Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson, who are ‘outsiders’, like him, who individually redefined aspects of society. By casting them, he didn’t just pay homage to some of his heroes that he personally connected to either through music or their appearance physique, “I would turn to my music heroes, and this was comforting. They looked the same and I wanted to do everything to be like them, and not hide myself in baggy clothes to avoid negative comments. David Bowie, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Jones, Paul Weller, I felt connected to their allure, aesthetic and style.”, but he united two forms of art at different ends of the spectrum. In addition, he directed various music projects for Saint Laurent and combined the recent Menswear Autumn/ Winter 2016 collection with his love for music by presenting the collection in the Hollywood Palladium positioned in the City of Angels, LA.
Unlike most runway shows that have social media stars at the center of their attention, Slimane scouted and hand picked emerging talent from bands or just some of the youth from local streets. Hedi Slimane likes the unconstitutional beauty within his models who do not swarm social media with their selfies but grab the attention of the few who share similar interests within their oddly captured photographs of the night before. His crew of adolescence inspired him throughout his four years at SLP, all becoming unofficial brand ambassadors; such as Julia Cumming and Lili Sumner, to name a few. When it comes to his campaigns and runway shows, he is his own stylist, personally finishing each look off to meet his uttermost personal regard of perfection. Likewise, he also shoots his own campaigns that yearn rareness from the models who are embedding their own identities within the clothing and the pictures, leaving us with a connection not just to Saint Laurent but to the girl or boy in front of us.
At the end of Yves’ career he solely focused on couture. In 2015, Hedi Slimane announced the opening of the couture house on the well-known Rive Gauche. In his final collection, dedicated to Pierre Bergé the co-founder and ex-lover of Yves, he scrapped the ready-to-wear for a couture worthy collection in the house’s Couture Salon. Slimane ditched his normal indie rock music for the original voice, Bénédicte de Ginestous, who announced each look by number as he did during every single one of Yves’ collections.
Four years down the line, and we sit restless pondering ‘what will Hedi do next?’ but his time at Saint Laurent changed fashion and introduced the rock’n’roll era that we all crave to experience. Whether you are one of the Saint Laurent faithful, a mere distant admirer or a “hater”, you must admire his focus and how he never once strayed from his purpose of wanting to create art, whether that be in photography or fashion, and his oblivious attitude to social media. Thank you Mr. Slimane, for everything.
Long may you reign.
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Image of Hedi via forbes.com