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Hedi Slimane: How He Left and What’s Next for the YSL

BY Mason Harris


On Friday, April 1, 2016, Hedi Slimane, the head designer of Saint Laurent, announced that he would be stepping down from his position at the company, and it was no April Fools joke. After four years of being the creative and image director of the house, Slimane has decided to leave. Slimane, who was previously the menswear designer at Dior Homme, made a lot of notable changes during his short time at Saint Laurent, and was sure to leave the company with a bang.

According to Hilary Moss of The New York Times Style Magazine , the number one highlight of Hedi Slimane’s time at Yves Saint Laurent when he dropped the ‘Yves.’ After being with the company for four months, Slimane changed the name of the house to “Saint Laurent Paris.” Sarah Mower from Vogue  says about Slimane’s Saint Laurent:

“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.

His goal was to attract a younger audience or convince adults to discover the rocker side of themselves. He was able to achieve this not only through his designs, but with the new name came a new, sleek logo, and he also redesigned all of the brand’s stores to match the new Saint Laurent. The brand’s stores are very simplistic and has a black and white color scheme. 

As the famous saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Slimane received criticism for designing clothes that were thought to be unoriginal and using models in the brand’s shows that were considered to be too thin. This backlash never hurt the company. In fact, it only got people to pay more attention and got them intrigued to see what Slimane was doing. In 2014, after nearly three years of working at the company, Slimane had doubled Saint Laurent’s revenue to about $787 million. With this kind of success, it was impossible for Slimane to make a quiet exit from the company.

Within a month Saint Laurent hosted two fashion shows that were not only on opposite sides of the world, but were completely opposite in the type of shows they were. The show in Los Angeles on February 10 was extremely publicized and had a guest-list loaded with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Lenny Kravitz, Courtney Love, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres, Zac Efron, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and many more. The clothes presented were from the brand’s menswear and womenswear collections. The clothes were ‘70s rock inspired with lots of leather, velvet and glitter. The show was followed by an after party that had performances by Beck and Joan Jett among others. In contrast, the Paris show that took place on March 7 at the new Le Maison Saint Laurent was a complete surprise. The Paris show was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s haute couture of the early- ‘80s with “short-skirted, poufed, pinnacle-shouldered exaggeration”.

In addition, days before Slimane announced he would be leaving Saint Laurent, the company released two new campaigns. On March 29, the company released a campaign photographed in black and white by Slimane himself, like all the campaigns were during his time at Saint Laurent, featuring Jane Birkin in Le Smoking tuxedo, which has been a classic Saint Laurent look since the 1960s. Birkin, the French woman who was once a model and an actress, is the person who inspired the name for the iconic Hermès Birkin bag. Now at age 69, Birkin in the Saint Laurent campaign is a classic woman dressed in a classic look. The following day, March 30, Saint Laurent released yet another campaign, but this time with Cara Delevingne. The model-turned-actress had previously announced a break from modeling until now. Delevingne models the company’s “La Collection de Paris,” which includes a lot of ‘80s-inspired looks, including tight dresses with big belts and big fur coats. Between the fashion shows and campaigns, Hedi Slimane had quite the grand finale to end his time with a company he heavily impacted.

On Monday April 4, 2016, the president and chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, Francesca Bellettini, announced that Anthony Vaccarello would succeed Slimane’s role as the creative and image director of the company. Prior to taking on this new position, for a little over a year, Vaccarello was the creative director of Versus Versace, which, according to Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times, is “the younger, funkier sibling brand of Versace.” Vaccarello also founded his own brand in 2009, but has decided to put working on his brand on hold in order to focus on Saint Laurent. Bellettini said of Vaccarello, “His modern, pure aesthetic is the perfect fit for the maison.” Vaccarello will debut his first collection for Saint Laurent during the spring 2017 fashion week in October in Paris, the city he is based out of.

Besides moving the company’s base back to Paris from Los Angeles, no one expects Vaccarello to make any big changes to Saint Laurent like Slimane did. It is not something that is necessary after Slimane changed the name and logo to make them more modern and appealing to the younger generations. People can predict what the future of Saint Laurent may hold, but we will all have to wait patiently for October to come to see what the future of the company will actually look like.

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