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SAINT LAURENT PARIS The Reign of Slimane How the Company’s New Head Designer Has Transformed the Brand


“FROM A BRANDING PERSPECTIVE, I don’t believe there is a downside to Slimane’s decision. The new name signals that change is ahead at Yves Saint Laurent and it provides a platform for the brand to communicate their new vision to followers. It also enables them to reinforce core values at the essence of the brand — citing youth, freedom and modernity from the 1966 Saint Laurent Rive Gauche line as inspiration for the change. Yves Saint Laurent has done well to communicate their rationale for the change and the historical precedent it draws from. When a company makes a bold or highly visible move like this, they are given a unique opportunity to tell their story on a broad stage. Since the announcement, the legacy of the YSL brand has been at the forefront of media attention. This is an opportunity for them to strengthen their heritage while building anticipation for Slimane’s debut collection for the Spring 2013 season.” - Mary Ellen Muckerman, head of strategy at Wolff Olins


“WITH A COMPANY that already has such a strong brand in place, the potential risks of such a shift greatly outweigh the benefits. Alienating YSL’s current core customer is a clear risk. I recommend saving changes like this for companies that have fallen into obscurity or disrepair or are wavering in the minds of consumers [which is clearly not the case at YSL]. [The name change also risks eroding the brand’s authentic heritage.] There are very few genuine maisons who can claim the lineage, history and parenthood that YSL can claim — and to literally toss that out is not only blasphemy, but it also completely misunderstands the incredible value that the brand intrinsically holds — a value that goes far beyond any single designer at the helm." - Sara Rotman, founder of MODCo Creative


“FROM PPR’S PERSPECTIVE, Mr. Slimane is doing exactly what the company wants, engaging in the commercial side of the business, including store design, and communicating directly with younger customers online.” – The NY Times


Timeline of Slimane’s Controversial History with YSL

WWD reports: …”Slimane would return the house to its “original branding” and thereby “restoring the house to its truth, purity and essence — and taking it into a new era” while “respecting the original principles and ideals.”

March 2012: PPR brings Slimane in as YSL’s new creative director

YSL Mens RTW Fall/Winger 1999

1996: Mr. Bergé hires Slimane “to revamp Saint Laurent’s men’s wear” (The NY Times)

2000: Simane introduces his iconic skinny silhouette in his final YSL collection, “Black Tie”, and leaves YSL to work on Dior’s men’s line

“Translation: Slimane will revive fonts and other details from the house's earliest era. In 1966, the label was called Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, so Saint Laurent Paris is apparently a compromise between the new and old names.” – The Guardian, UK

June 2012: Slimane changes the label’s name to Saint Laurent Paris

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October 2012 : Slimane debuts his first YSL collection as creative director YSL Spring 2013 RTW - Style.com description:

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…True, he hot-wired himself into the YSL legacy with Le Smoking, the mousselines, the pussy bows, the shot of animal spot, and that thing called Saharienne (which will always be Veruschka in Vogue). The tassels said Morocco—they also said Opium, à la Yves. But it felt like the real mood of the collection was dictated by Slimane's L.A. sojourn. The pared-to-the-bone rock-chick look—with its legging-slender pants and tiny sequined jackets—was one facet. The other, deeper reference was the city's plangent, occult pull. The women on Slimane's catwalk today looked like the witchy covens who'd surround rock groups in the sixties/seventies heyday of the Strip. Or maybe even earlier, when the artist Cameron seduced the stalwarts of the Ferus Gallery. The floor-sweeping, full-sleeve dresses had the deeply gothic tinge that is peculiar to L.A. With the models' faces uniformly shaded by wide-brimmed hats, it seemed that witchy seduction was the agenda of the evening. A bizarre way to stake a claim to one of fashion's most unimpeachable legacies, maybe, but it felt perfectly in tune with what one could legitimately claim to be Slimane's California obsession…


“WHAT IS INTERESTING to me is how extreme the reactions [to the collection] are,” said Dirk Standen, the editor in chief of Style.com, which has monitored its readers’ reactions to the show through their online comments. “They are fairly evenly split,” he said, “though possibly slightly more negative than positive. At the end of the day, they are clothes. People could just shrug.” – The NY Times


“…frankly, definitely and completely hideous.” – Eugenia Sheppard, fashion critic “…what was most surprising was that it was so unsurprising.” – Lisa Armstrong, The Telegraph “But Slimane’s silhouette looks to be so unforgiving that it could be financial liability to a brand trying to build its clientele.” - The Daily Beast

“[It was] sublime … he respected the codes of Saint Laurent.” – Pierre Bergé “[I want] everything.” – Kate Moss “I completely identify with that look, and I think he did a great job.” – Diane von Furstenberg


Retailers Respond

I

n a sign of the interest in Mr. Slimane’s shows, Saint Laurent ranked second among the most viewed collections

on the site for both the fall and spring seasons … Before Mr. Slimane, the collection had not previously been in the top 10 …

Barneys New York had sold 60% of its spring order at full price as of last week, including a $14,000 dress … … Jeffrey

New York also sold out of

several key looks …

We’re very eager for the business to be as big as the perception of the

“ When we were

buying the collection, I felt like I was seeing dollar signs. ”

brand.

… Bergdorf

Goodman is building special departments for Saint Laurent in its men’s and women’s stores, which are expected to be completed this month …


“ … he delivered a slick collection fusing his contemporary silhouette with rock-meets-Seventies-inspired styles that echoed an iconic era of the house drawing heavily on the archives," McKee told us this morning. "This strong aesthetic reflects the continued demand for a more paired-back look, which has been prominent over the last few years - with many women buying less, and picking clever investment pieces that can be mixed and matched. The focus was very much on the cut, fit and fabrication, and this was a collection that is perfect for our customer.” – Marigay McKee, Harrod’s chief merchant


“ ‘Slim-man-ery.’ Now that Hedi Slimane is doing menswear again, does this mean 'manorexia' is back in?“ – Anonymous

January 2013: Fall 2013 Menswear collection released “The kindest thing to be said about Slimane's first official men's collection was that he made a guy to go with his girl. ” – Style.com This was just as much about the plaid shirts, distressed jeans, drainpipe leathers, trailing leopard-print scarves, vintage coats and cavalry jackets… a rock prototype… all of it is thrilling in theory and practice, but it was a surreal incongruity to see it spot-lit in a very expensive fashion presentation… Slimane's passion for the music he loves, the bands that make that music, and the lifestyle that surrounds it is entirely understandable, laudable… [but] he spun his ardor into high fashion today, it made a lot less sense, especially as the kids who are the prime components of his vision can already shop this look for zilch down the funky end of any L.A. boulevard.

January 2013: PreFall 2013 collection released

…a rock star's wardrobe – unapologetically young, with an emphasis on the casual

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March 2013 : Fall 2013 RTW

"So we get it. Slimane is remaking Saint Laurent. It's young. It's sexy. It's très rock and roll. A gazillion girls who love Urban Outfitters' signature homage to Seattle Grunge will adore this luxed-up version ... But he needs to have more faith in the enduring allure of beautifully engineered pieces — and riff on them some more next season. Neither he — nor Saint Laurent — requires the styling tics of a 20-year-old teenage music revolution." — Lisa Armstrong, The Telegraph

"I feel like he’s playing a huge joke on the entire fashion industry." —Anonymous editor quoted Eric Wilson in The Times

"Few archetypes are more engaging than the undone girl, especially when under her ratty hair, pout, pounding gait and sloppy chic lurk a pretty face and skinny body. But is playing a cutesy, disaffectedyouth hand enough to propel the house of Saint Laurent into today’s luxury stratosphere — especially if the targeted air space is that in which Chanel and Dior reside? That, too, remains a question." - WWD

"'It’s like bad Topshop!' hissed one retailer as the audience filed out. 'So disrespectful!' said another... And yes, it kind of was. Saint Laurent has recently started to take on the elevated, and static, aura of French Fashion Treasure, even though once upon a time (fashion has a very short memory) it was actually French Fashion Rebel. And yet, this sort of grungy fashion is not really rebellious, since it has been done before – by Marc Jacobs when he was at Perry Ellis, to the same horrified reception back in the 1990s, and most recently by Dries Van Noten, last season – so it was also a bit of a postmodern pose, with a Hedi (not Atlas) Shrugged aspect to it." — Vanessa Friedman for The FT

"Many editors present did not appear to be in love with the concept, but there were many pieces that looked commercially lucrative…" — Eric Wilson for The Times


Next Steps: The latest uproar, though hardly the biggest, is a series of advertisements in which Mr. Slimane has cast unwholesome rock stars like Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson to represent what was once the most revered fashion house in Paris.


Saint Laurent Paris: The Reign of Slimane  

"Saint Laurent Paris: The Reign of Slimane." How the Company's New Head Designer Has Transformed the Brand. Date Completed: March 2014. Brie...

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