Its time for some fashion news!!
Yesterday’s news that Hedi Slimane has parted ways with Saint Laurent puts this year’s most fraught speculation at an official end. The house confirmed Slimane’s departure via press release, stating that, “at the end of a four-year mission, which has led to the complete repositioning of the brand, the Maison Yves Saint Laurent announces the departure of Hedi Slimane as its creative and image director.”
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, added: “What Yves Saint Laurent has achieved over the past four years represents a unique chapter in the history of the house. I am very grateful to Hedi Slimane, and the whole Yves Saint Laurent team, for having set the path that the house has successfully embraced, and which will grant longevity to this legendary brand.” The release notes that a new creative organization “will be communicated in due course.”
Slimane hardly slipped away silently. Within the space of a month, his two very different shows—one, an L.A. happening at the Hollywood Palladium, the other, a total surprise, at the brand-new La Maison Yves Saint Laurent on the Left Bank in Paris on March 7—only went to further underline his controversial powers as a scene-maker, rule-breaker, and divider of opinions.
The L.A. event, staged in front of a vast cross-generational audience of fans from music, art, and Hollywood, mixed menswear with womenswear in high ’70s glitter, leather, velvet, and midi-skirted glam-rock style, and then segued into the nearest fashion’s ever got to a festival all-nighter with performances from Beck, Joan Jett, Allah-Las, and more. In Paris, it was almost opposite: an extreme, short-skirted, poufed, pinnacle-shouldered exaggeration of the early-’80s glamour of Yves Saint Laurent’s haute couture. It was sent out in the hushed chandelier-lit surroundings of a maison—whose 18-month restoration had been kept a relative secret—before the astonished eyes of the few.
At the end, Slimane darted from behind a mirrored screen, kissed Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s former partner, who was sitting in the front row, and it was over.
Overseeing the renaming of the label as Saint Laurent, Slimane based himself in L.A. rather than Paris, detached himself from press interviews, and proceeded to mine a seam of popular—some said populist—fashion based on youth culture classics. Steering away from high-flown conceptual design, he filled Saint Laurent stores with well-cut biker jackets, army parkas, little sparkly dresses, riffs on tuxedo suiting, hot pants, grunge lingerie slips, and a deluge of footwear, from ’70s platforms to rocker boots to Mary Janes—and for Spring 2016, festival-ready Wellington boots.
Despite criticism of everything from Slimane’s reclusiveness to his imputed lack of originality and his taste for extremely thin models, his Saint Laurent was a massive hit. According to company results stated in 2014, he succeeded in more than doubling revenues to the tune of about $787 million within three years, a commercial fact that rippled through luxury fashion, making many competitors sit up and question the very nature and purpose of high-end design. It was a tenure that broke through a generational barrier, positioning shows as virtual gigs with original music as soundtracks, and easily assimilated street- and club-wear shown on tribes of young girls and boys. Without compromising price—which remained at designer level—he opened an era of accessible fashion, which young people would save up to buy, or persuade their parents to buy for them (while elders rediscovered their inner rockers in plenty of surreptitious purchases for themselves).
Whatever is to come, Hedi Slimane leaves this gig as the man who caused a paradigm shift. The discussion around who will take his place at Saint Laurent is for another day, but in the bigger picture, what are the implications for corporate fashion’s attitudes to major designers now? One thing’s for sure: The upheaval shows no sign of abating anytime soon.
Watch the Saint Laurent Spring 2016 ready-to-wear show: