PARIS – After years at Dior, designer Hedi Slimane was named creative director at Yves Saint Laurent in 2012, where he has embarked on a strategy to revolutionize the legendary French fashion house. He has just opened a new flagship store on Paris’s luxurious Avenue Montaigne and renamed the brand “Saint Laurent.”
Black, white and marble everywhere. Saint Laurent’s new flagship store looks like a black box illuminated by artificial lights from the outside — but its ambitions and goals are clear. This new store, located in the center of Paris’s “golden triangle” of luxury retailers, is the uppercut that seals the message Slimane has been sending the fashion world since his arrival at Saint Laurent a year ago.
The first thing Slimane did upon becoming creative director of the brand was to drop the “Yves” from the famous logo created in the 1960s by Ukrainian-French painter, poster artist and typeface designer Cassandre. After that, Slimane moved part of the studio from Paris to Los Angeles, where he proceeded to bring grunge back to the Saint Laurent black and white ads with desperate blonde Courtney Love or Sonic Youth's disheveled Kim Gordon.
“But who are these people?” shouted the more conservative fringe of the fashion world — the old “Yves” diehards — having forgotten that the creator had always used the rock scene as a source of inspiration.
It goes deeper. The fashion shows directed by Slimane for Saint Laurent are shaking the foundations of the stilted Parisian elegance, too haute couture to be worn in the streets. The designer does away with the past, but not the brand’s legacy. He opts for pieces that can be worn and appropriated easily: a pullover, a pair of pants — all in black, the bestselling color.
All of this with the consent of Yves Saint Laurent co-founder, and partner of the fashion designer who gave his name to the brand, Pierre Bergé, the guardian of the temple. Erasing such an illustrious history was a risky choice, especially since the old faithfuls are still here to make sure Yves’ legacy is respected.
From the catwalk and into the street
Slimane didn’t want to just copy/paste the original anti-bourgeois spirit extolled by Yves Saint Laurent, who subverted the fashion aristocracy of the 1960-70s. Like a war strategist, using marketing as a weapon, Slimane heralds in a new youth. This new brand, Saint Laurent, was not created for the old faithfuls, but for a clientele that has seen fashion come down from the catwalks and into the streets.
Today, at Saint Laurent, everything is being redone from scratch. There are black glittery suits — like the ones created for the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, for their new album Random Access Memories. Or the bespoke leather waistcoat created for Keith Richard’s new tour.
Daft Punk by Slimane - Photo: Saint Laurent FB
For the women, it’s also black, long legs covered in leather, tight jackets that remind us of Yves Saint Laurent’s mythic muse, Betty Catroux.
The new Avenue Montaigne flagship store is a sort of Hall of Fame — an elegant bunker with sharp lines and aspectacular silver polished brass stairway. A 21st century Art Deco style inspired by the Union des ArtistesModernes (“the French Union of Modern Artists”) a dissident movement of decorative artists and architects founded in 1930 by architect and designer Robert Mallet-Stevens, lauded by Yves Saint Laurent. The only difference is that the benches, in padded leather and white marble, look like Pilates benches, and that the VIP fitting room, with its huge mirrors, is the size of a night-club.
A year after starting his revolution, Slimane is also showcasing a “permanent” collection with classic Yves Saint Laurent pieces: a tuxedo, a white shirt with black polka dots, a flannel striped suit, a duffle bag — some of them still bearing the classic YSL logo ...