Did Hedi Slimane Just Pull A Fast One on Saint Laurent?
The rumors of Hedi Slimane’s departure from Saint Laurent have been swirling about for some time now, whispering through ripped, sheer, sometimes sparkly tights, and breezing through the puffed sleeves of $5,000 babydoll dresses. And today, they were officially confirmed.
Slimane is leaving his post as creative and image director—and rarely has a title been taken so literally. When the photographer, former Dior Homme designer, and all around artist joined the YSL team in 2012, he didn’t so much take over the brand’s creative direction where his predecessors had left off as he simply directed the brand down an entirely new creative path.
From the beginning of his tenure at YSL, Slimane came in like a bulldozer, tearing the label apart at the seams—a label that Yves spent 48 years building and honing to perfection. He redid the entire aesthetic, suffusing it with a grungy, rock ‘n’ roll vibe; redid the physical label; and even managed to convince the Kering-owned brand to drop the “Yves”—as if it were nothing more than a $900 plaid overshirt.
The overhaul was swift, severe, and hard to ignore—but not entirely needless either. Before YSL became Saint Laurent, the brand wasn’t doing particularly well—the aesthetic was becoming kind of stale and drab. Then Slimane took over, and the label’s sales, according to Bloomberg, “grew more than 20 percent” each year.
So why would Slimane want to leave a job that brought him so much creative freedom, success, power, and money? Well one theory is that, however much money he was making, it wasn’t enough. Market reports revealed that Slimane’s departure came after he and the company couldn’t reach an agreement on a new contract, and as Vanessa Friedman noted, “The talk surrounding [Slimane’s] contract negotiations centered on speculation about what he wanted (more money).”
But for some reason, that explanation doesn’t quite suffice. For someone who took one of the most iconic design houses in the world and completely rebranded every facet of it—including the stores’ interiors and the label’s stationery—you’d think he’d try a bit harder to nail down a contract that fit both his and the company’s aesthetics—if, for nothing else, than the last five years’ worth of his work. His decision to just up sticks and dip almost seems like part of a grander, very calculated plan to sabotage the YSL brand.
Whatever the reason, as Friedman points out, it’s no longer valid to paint designers as the victims of corporate America. With Alexander Wang leaving Balenciaga after less than five years, Raf Simons doing the same at Dior, and now Mr. Slimane following suit, it’s safe to say that these designers are contributing as much to the fast pace of the fashion industry as any other “see now, buy now” peddler.
Stay tuned to Milk for more design house dropouts.
Images via Grazia, “Yves Saint Laurent’s Studio: Mirror and Secret,” Wallpaper, and NYMag.