Hedi Slimane Officially Flies The Saint Laurent Coop
April 1, 2016
As has been widely rumored since the beginning of the year, Hedi Slimane has officially exited his position as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent.
He ends a four-year tenure characterized by anticipation and controversy as he was given rare authority to rebuild the renowned couture house from the bottom up starting with the feather ruffling rebranding of the ready-to wear as "Saint Laurent" and ending with a restoration of the dormant haute couture collection as an invitation-only venture under the original "Yves Saint Laurent" label. Though he never actually showed a full haute couture show, his final runway collection for Fall 2016, shown in Paris in February, was presented as if it were one, in silence with each look's number announced by Bénédicte de Ginestous who served the same role at Yves Saint Laurent's own haute couture shows. The collection was actually made in the house's couture workrooms, though it is in fact ready-to-wear, and its ad campaign, starring Cara Delevingne photographed by Slimane, was revealed by the designer himself only a few days ago.
Executives from Kering, which owns the business, have been open about the fact that Slimane's contract would end on March 31st, and that they would be negotiating until that point. It is difficult to understand how they couldn't come to terms with the designer to continue, since it appears that they bent over backwards to get him to come to the job in the first place, and the collaboration has been mutually beneficial to say the least. He was allowed to move the design studio to Los Angeles where he lives, and was given the authority to change just about everything about the brand from renaming the prêt-à-porter collections to redesigning the boutiques and in-store shops which were renovated at great expense. The amount of attention and funds lavished on Slimane was so notable that it reportedly rankled Kering's other star designer at Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquiere, enough for him to walk away from the brand he had already reconceived to great acclaim.
Ghesquiere is now comfortably ensconced at the Kering arch-rival LVMH-owned Louis Vuitton, while Balenciaga has just debuted the first collection by his second successor in four years. Now Kering is faced with replacing Slimane. Though not beloved by critics due to both his high-handed treatment of the press and collections that many of them found derivative and repetitive, he is adored by celebrity acolytes, and he managed to catapult Saint Laurent to over $1 billion in sales last year. Rumors have swirled around Belgian born designer Anthony Vaccarello as his replacement. He has his own collection and is also the designer for Versus by Versace. An announcement is expected soon enough for him to start work on Saint Laurent's Spring 2015 collections.
In the meantime, speculation continues about what Slimane's next move will be. It is unlikely that he will fill the most prominent open position in Paris available the moment, creative director at Christian Dior, as it is known to come with far less authority over branding than his now previous job. Slimane had been vocal about the fact that he had no influence over the Yves Saint Laurent cosmetics and fragrance business which is controlled by L'Oréal. Rumors had that as a sticking point in his re-negotiations with Kering, but the conglomerate was not in a position deal on that front. The most likely scenario has Slimane finally starting his own fashion house, presumably based in Los Angeles, but he is expected to take his time. He let a long five years lapse between leaving Dior Homme in 2007 and starting at Saint Laurent in 2012 and, though he now has the experience as a women's designer that would make it much easier to finance a new fashion brand, it is not known if he is in any hurry to jump back into the fray. Until that happens, however, his future moves are likely to be fashion's biggest unanswered questions.