On April 1st, Saint Laurent Paris confirmed what everyone already knew: that cult designer Hedi Slimane would be leaving the house as creative and image director after four years — a deeply unfunny April Fool’s Day joke if it was one. In four years Slimane completely repositioned the Saint Laurent brand, changed the logo, yanked the studios from Paris to Los Angeles where he is based (wow), dropped the “Yves” from Yves Saint Laurent and dramatically changed the image of the house from stuffy to piping hot.
I’ve been following Hedi Slimane since his days at the helm of Christian Dior Homme, way back in 2005, when he sent androgynous male models down the catwalk in sickening, gold Cuban heels. Worrrrrk! The models had on eyeshadow and guyliner and they were flamboyant yet cool and sexy. Though I never owned any Dior Homme, Slimane’s super public embrace of androgyny somehow allowed me step my titties up, feeling free to try my own hand at androgyny. I couldn’t afford Dior Homme but I sure did wear skin tight, testicle crushing pants like his models did. I worked cuban heels and sequin jackets and tied scarves around my neck, just like his models did. Seeing his rock and roll vision helped me solidify my own sense of style, nudging me away from Hot Topic thank the lord. Ten years later rock and roll style is still my go-to daily look.
Most of my clothes come from thrift shops or low key places like OAK or ASOS and, to be honest, I’ve never really been into buying designer clothes. French critical theorist Roland Barthes and his critique of the fashion system ruined luxury for me, heh. That said, if I had the money and if it was a house I really liked — say, Rick Owens, who I also love — I would probably buy a few pieces here and there. But they would have to be big pieces like a leather jacket or a bag, something I could wear to death. Though I never owned any Dior I followed Hedi Slimane and the Dior Homme runway shows every single season because I wanted to see what he would come up with next. I was obsessed with his creative vision.
Hedi Slimane is a rare kind of superstar designer, a creative mind that fashion fanboys and girls will follow wherever he goes. He’s so exciting, his vision always mixing music, pop culture and fashion. His models walk fast and look like they don’t give a shit about being there which adds to the cool. Like Karl Lagerfeld, who is immortal basically, Slimane is a towering figure who has both name recognition and a tried and true aesthetic that people love. Whether he finally starts his own label or ends up back at Christian Dior or Lanvin or — OMG! — Chanel, what’s certain is that his fan base will follow him wherever he ends up. At this point, his name and singular aesthetic vision will eclipse any brand he directs.
I never wanted a Saint Laurent piece because it was “Saint Laurent.” I wanted it because it was Hedi Slimane and I wanted to be a part of his stark, minimalist, rock and roll vision. Even if a newly repositioned Saint Laurent sticks with the new brand image Slimane has created, and even if they try to plug someone in to do what Slimane did, it just won’t feel the same. With Slimane no longer at the helm, I no longer feel the interest in Saint Laurent. How a single designer can have so much influence over how we connect emotionally to him and remain loyal to his artistic vision, not to the label itself, is fascinating.