Since taking the creative reigns at Yves Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane has courted his fair share of controversy. From changing the name of the house to simply ‘Saint Laurent’ to his decision to work from LA rather than Paris his tenure has evoked constant criticism from some of the fashion industries most respected critics despite having doubled revenue since he joined the house in 2012.
Commercial success aside, Slimane’s penchant for an aesthetic that’s strongly influenced by music and youth has sparked constant debate, which is set to be exemplified with the announcement that Saint Laurent will be resurrecting its couture line, which has been dormant since Yves Saint Laurent passed away. To add to his continued controversy, its reported the Slimane will handpick his couture clients, catering almost exclusively to musicians and celebrities.
Following the news, the usual quiet Slimane has given a rare interview and spoken about his role at Saint Laurent, his reasoning for returning to the creative fold of fashion after a hiatus of several years and dealing with his critics. “Going back to design was a significant and difficult decision,” says Slimane. “I had found a balance with my life in California for many years, a certain serenity and joy. I was in a peaceful place, and this new design project meant I certainly would have to expose myself more than I would normally want to. I was thrilled to go back to a fashion studio, let alone to a house that felt like family.”
When asked about the parallels often drawn between himself and the controversy Yves Saint Laurent garnered himself early in his career Slimane remarked that “fashion without controversy probably feels like nonsense. Not that controversy is provocation. I have never been interested by provocation, only the nature of what I do seems sometimes to bring controversy.”
Despite the wealth of opinions levelled at his most recent collections, Slimane has always garnered great acclaim for his menswear. He has likened it to “perfecting the same pieces over and over again,” leading to his dabbles in unisex clothing, not unlike Saint Laurent himself. “I wanted to design, next to or within the show collections, an evolving wardrobe of simple and really well made items for both men and women, most of the time unisex pieces. Arguably, simplicity is not an easy thing to achieve, in any creative field. In that respect, I felt a distance with my early days in design, as I was now in a different place, with the idea of perfecting something apparently simple with a sense of credibility, authenticity and longevity.”
Whatever your feelings toward his design aesthetic (I’ve had some rather strong opinions on his work myself) his candid interview is certainly a compelling read. The relaunch of the houses couture line is set to only further polarise views on his work so if nothing else, it’s always interesting to understand the motivations behind such a divisive artist.