Slimane Exits Saint Laurent!

“What motivates me is discovery.  Searching for new music, unspoiled talents, and the excitement of youth. There is nothing to be jaded about; there is constantly change and evolution around. You need to be curious and open to new things, and never think it was better before, since nothing is ever the same.” , said Slimane of Saint Laurent, who is leaving the fashion house, and possibly moving to better pastures.

The man who is known to reinvent, added a dash of rock star chic to the ever classic and androgynous YSL look.

“PRIVACY seems to be the only true luxury left today.” So said Hedi Slimane,last August, in a rare interview he gave to Yahoo! Style. As fashion observers search for clues as to why the reclusive designer has parted ways with Saint Laurent after four years at the helm, a comment that he gave in relation to his reinstatement of the Yves Saint Laurent couture business suddenly seems pertinent.

In March, when he showed the Autumn Winter collection that was read as an uncompromising homage to Eighties-era Yves, whispers of an impending departure gathered apace. Leave on an unadulterated, super-Parisian, elegiacally YSL high, went the logic – and leave them wanting more.

According to reports from Kering what Yves Saint Laurent has achieved over the past four years represents a unique chapter in the history of the house.” It also represents a unique chapter in its general leger: last year sales revenue stood at €974 million (about $1.08 billion), up from €707 million in 2014. Having staked his claim on the accessible – biker jackets, mini dresses, tuxedos and black ankle boots – Slimane turned Saint Laurent into one of the most profitable houses in the Kering stable. For the final quarter of 2015, like-for-like sales were up by 27.4% – a remarkable posting in a slowing luxury market.

However Slimane has not shied away from creating a controversy.  He arrived at Yves Saint Laurent in 2012 and his “Reform Project”, as he termed it, was swift and severe. Changes were deemed “systemic”, and “were needed to comfort the progression and accuracy of the House of Yves Saint Laurent”. He was behind the change in the name, dropping the Yves from Yves Saint Laurent, which was sighted as irrational, but a clever move for publicity towards his project.

Second, his pathbreaking move was to establish a studio in LA, 9,000km away from the Paris headquarters, breaking away from the traditional Parisian feel of the brand.

He revamped the advertising campaign look, promoting glam-rock imagery which he photographed himself in black and white. He changed the stores, installing marble and mirrored surfaces to create stark, Modernist interiors at great expense. He changed the typeface. And he changed the clothes, riffing on cult classics that lacked the conceptual pretensions of high fashion. Critics deemed his leather jackets, army parkas, mini skirts and slip dresses populist – but up close, the construction of the garments was utterly immaculate, and the fabrics felt heartily authentic, down to the specific “grain de poudre” finish of a 1930s-inflected tuxedo jacket.

The final “preservation” element in the magic Slimane formula was the reintroducing of the the couture line.  Slimane set about selecting artisans to restore floors, décor, a central staircase and the former French geometric garden. He also collected modernist Art Deco and Louis XVI furniture with which to fill the house. The ateliers had been producing handmade pieces for movie stars and musicians under the label “Yves Saint Laurent”, although did not reappear on the official couture schedule.

It was a discreet operation, borne of a man who once described himself thus: “remote and in a quiet environment is closer to my nature”. After Kering and Slimane could not come to an agreement on a new contract on Thursday, one presumes Slimane will return to a relaxed life in LA, preparing for his next challenge.

He certainly has left a dark legacy to follow. I will be waiting to see who is at the helm of Saint Laurent now. Adios Slimane!!



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