The Moment: The news—or rather, the confirmation, after what seems like an eternity of speculation—that Hedi Slimane has left his post as creative and image director of Saint Laurent, raises two major questions that the fashion industry will be chewing over for the next several months. First, what is the future of Saint Laurent? Second, and just as interestingly, what is the future of Slimane?
“A new creative organization for the house will be communicated in due course,” noted a press release that was sent out around 1 a.m. on Friday, just after the duration of Slimane’s existing contract came to an end. Women’s Wear Daily reported weeks ago that Kering, the luxury goods conglomerate that owns the house, held advanced talks with Anthony Vaccarello, the young designer of exhibitionist-friendly fashions (he is the master of both the exposed clavicle and the revealed ribcage), to take over should Slimane depart. So stay tuned.
One interesting detail in the announcement was that Kering consistently referred to the house as Yves Saint Laurent or Maison Yves Saint Laurent, rather than mentioning that one of Slimane’s first acts as designer was to change the label to Saint Laurent, dropping the Yves in a nod to the name of the company’s original ready-to-wear collection from 1966. Slimane was setting the stage for a return of a couture collection that would be differentiated by using the full name, headquartered in a 17th-century mansion that Slimane renovated and restored over 18 months at what was presumably a considerable expense. Kering, in fact, has invested heavily in remaking Saint Laurent’s entire retail network to reflect Slimane’s vision. Whoever moves in next will find a beautiful, gleaming, mirrored and marbled home, so let’s hope they share his taste.
Why It’s a Wow: Then there’s the case of Hedi Slimane. It’s hard to overstate just how much sway Slimane held over the industry for the last four years, and how much he challenged—successfully—the conventions of a luxury house. I’m not just talking about his notorious feuds with fashion critics (who needs ‘em?) and fits of pique. He even dropped Colette, the influential retailer, because the store was also selling T-shirts that parodied his seemingly imperious attitude. In fairness, he may have been misunderstood. Also in fairness, that’s probably because he so rarely spoke to the press.
Meanwhile, his creations for Saint Laurent stayed within an extraordinarily tight aesthetic framework, one that reprised boho, grunge, rockabilly, punkish, and borderline vulgar styles closely associated with Slimane’s musical tastes. The complaint from critics was that it never changed, or that it looked trashy for the high prices, but customers absolutely loved it and the business rebounded. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success, and so, over the seasons, Slimane’s example became more and more a model for the industry. Kering’s new designers at Balenciaga and Gucci, for example, have shaken up expectations.
But what next for Slimane? He has been mentioned as a possible successor for every major design house in Europe. But given how quickly the norms of fashion are changing, perhaps the moment is right for Slimane to start something of his own. His fans will most certainly follow him anywhere.
Learn More: Look back at our previous coverage of his collections.