To Yves or not to Yves. That was the question that haunted the fashion world for what seemed like an eternity. During the past year alone, there were so many shocking and controversial switches and changes inside legendary fashion houses it was almost hard to keep up. T’was – and still is with the recent departure of Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga – a musical chairs of sorts.
But for Yves Saint Laurent, heretofore known as Saint Laurent Paris – which not only sparked a catfight with The NY Times’ Cathy Horyn, but it will also certainly take some getting used to – a change in creative direction also means new rebranding strategies. While a massive change like this could make or break a brand, Saint Laurent executives and its parent company, PPR, felt it was the opportune time to welcome back a familiar face: Hedi Slimane.
The Name Is Slimane
Although he studied Art History at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, Slimane was very well educated in tailoring. It was because of this skill set that landed him a position as the director of men’s Ready-to-Wear at Yves Saint Laurent in 1996. And just like this time around, Slimane was chosen by Pierre Berge (late designer Yves Saint Laurent’s business partner).
After five years at YSL, he accepted the position of creative director for Dior Homme in 2001. Interestingly enough, prior to his stint at Dior, he was offered the same position at Jil Sander. It was during his time at Dior Homme that he redefined modern menswear; it was the beginning of the slim, skinny silhouette our current fashion culture can no longer live without. In 2002, Slimane was awarded the CFDA award for International Designer, a first for a menswear designer.
By 2007, Slimane decided to leave the design world for a while and focus on his other interest: photography. Since then, his work has been published in various magazines like Vogue, VMAN, Visionaire, and Garage as well as exhibited in several galleries, most recently in L.A.’s MOCA. They are also available in his photography blog, hedislimane.com.
Over the past year, Slimane has been linked back to Dior following John Galliano’s embarrassing removal. It wasn’t until March 2012 that Yves Saint Laurent officially appointed Slimane as the house’s creative director.
Bringing Sexy Back
There are very few designers who can create something that so fully describes a specific moment and be iconic at the same time. Dior’s “New Look”, Chanel’s tweed pantsuits, and of course Yves Saint Laurent’s “Le Smoking”.
For Slimane’s debut (or second coming, really), he went back to what makes Saint Laurent the epitome of sexy sophistication. His Spring/Summer 2013 collection was one of the most talked about shows of the season – the others were Raf Simons for Dior, whom many claim to be Slimane’s rival, and Jil Sander back at her namesake label.
Slimane opted for a dark and highly dramatic color palette with generous sprinkles of gold and metallic sheens. The “borrowed from the boys” concept has never been more refined and glamorous. Not surprising especially since the designer first began in menswear. Slim, tapered trousers, a Slimane signature, were plenty complete with slightly boxier tuxedo jackets. And those wide brimmed hats evoked a mood apropos to the “Le Smoking” image as well as a reflection of Slimane’s adopted California lifestyle. Fringedsuede jackets and romantic evening wear (think opulent saloon maidens) were further proof of that. Who knew the wild, wild West could be so current? Slimane has proven yet again that he possesses an innate ability to create wearable yet fantastical pieces that no one knew they wanted just yet. Although there were several critics who dismissed this collection as disappointing – what with all the hype surrounding this return – there are a few standout pieces that will surely catapult into cult-status.
As for the name change, only time and sales can tell.