Saint Laurent star designer Slimane to leave

Hedi Slimane is departing Paris fashion house Saint Laurent where he was creative and image director for four years, brand owner Kering confirmed Friday.

Kering said the departure came at the end of Slimane’s mission to reposition the brand and that a new creative organisation for Saint Laurent would be communicated in due course. Anthony Vaccarello is seen as the most likely successor.

“The direction that has been taken over the last four years represents an incredible foundation for the brand to build on for its continuous success,” said Yves Saint Laurent chief executive Francesca Bellettini.

Bellettini credited Slimane with reforming the fashion house. “This repositioning has granted a new life and a new story to one of the most important French couture houses, with undisputed success,” she said.

Slimane joined Saint Laurent in March 2012 having previously revolutionised Dior Homme and pursued a photography and art career.

Slimane’s close attention to youth culture in Los Angeles translated into rock-inspired looks. However, his earliest collections drew mixed reactions from fashion critics, some praising his youthful energy, while others criticised his designs as an insult to the storied French label.

But one thing is certain; under Slimane, Saint Laurent’s sales grew from €353.7m ($402.5m) in 2011 to €973.6m last year when sales jumped 26%.

“What Yves Saint Laurent has achieved over the past four years represents a unique chapter in the history of the house,” said François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering.

“I am very grateful to Hedi Slimane, and the whole Yves Saint Laurent team, for having set the path that the house has successfully embraced, and which will grant longevity to this legendary brand.”

Nick Paget, WGSN’s senior menswear editor, summed up why Slimane is successful: “He has taken said fashion houses and force-fed them a rock n roll diet of whiskey and cigarettes, making them hugely profitable and credible with a new generation. His holistic view of the art world, rock music and fashion blends seamlessly to create an aesthetic that other luxury labels and even more mainstream brands such as Topman emulate constantly. It’s his approach as well as his artistic view that have inspired the whole industry and made him such an iconic taste-maker.

“That aesthetic stretches to the skinny, long-haired models that he favours for his menswear shows, which have been hugely influential on a newer generation of designers and in the gradual build of the current trend towards a genderless look in young fashion.”

Laura Yiannakou, associate womenswear editor, would like to see Slimane tackle just one more big design house before he goes it alone.

She said: “I think there are plenty of businesses out there who want to be a part of his movement. Who that will be isn’t clear, but I would love to see him tackle one more staid design house and reinvigorate it in the way he has Saint Laurent.”

Volker Ketteniss, menswear director at WGSN said that Slimane is in that breed of designers, which includes Alexander Wang who do what they want to do and progress it regardless of where they go.

“He is not the kind of creative that is looking to put out a new inspiration every season and that is why his garments works so well. It’s consistency, he does the stuff he likes and that he is into and that theme always continues.”

So is now the time for Slimane to go it alone rather than hop to yet another house? Ketteniss thinks so.

“It feels like he may take another break for an art project or film, in the way that Tom Ford did, and then I could imagine him looking to build his own thing now and that it all would be connected, coming from the same vision.

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