The news touted as ‘fashion’s worst kept-secret’ broke last week, as it was announced Hedi Slimane was leaving Saint Laurent Paris, and his replacement would be Anthony Vaccarello.
Slimane took over as the creative and artistic director for Yves Saint Laurent in 2012. A mere four months after his appointment at Saint Laurent, Slimane redesigned their iconic logo, and renamed the ready-to-wear line ‘Saint Laurent Paris’. Slimane also notably created the Saint Laurent Paris ‘Permanent Collection’, a range of ready-to-wear womenswear which is, you guessed it, permanently available and consists of blazers, leather jackets, shoes, handbags, skinny jeans and some very cool leopard print scarves. As creative and artistic director of Saint Laurent, Slimane had complete power over brand image, marketing and all new collections. It is safe to say, Saint Laurent Paris had struggled since the departure of Yves Saint Laurent as creative director, and collections had received mixed reviews from critics and consumers. Slimane brought an entirely new ascetic to the maison; along with a new wave of obsessed consumers; in 2015, Saint Laurent’s sales revenue was $1.08 billion, compared to $800 million just a year previously. Slimane’s designs were youthful, wild, and paid homage to classic rock-stars while furthering the 70’s revival which has dominated catwalks for recent seasons. Slimane also reinstated Saint Laurent’s Haute Couture Collection in 2015, which had been MIA since Yves Saint Laurent’s retirement in 2002.
Slimane’s successor will be Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello, who has been working as creative director of Versus Versace, as well as on his own eponymous line. Vaccarello is noted for his minimalistic and monochromatic designs.
While this fast designer turnover has certainly turned the spotlight on Saint Laurent Paris, it may be just a symptom of the fast-paced nature of today’s fashion industry. Slimane’s exit from Saint Laurent is not unusual, or unexpected, considering other recent exits of successful designers from large, well-known labels. In the last five years years, we have been witness to many similar departures, including Alber Elbez from Lanvin, Alexander Wang from Balenciaga, Raf Simons from Dior, and – ironically – Donna Karan from Donna Karan. Elbez released the following statement following the announcement of his departure from Lanvin “We used to be called couturiers, then we ended being designers and then creative directors – and today, the whole idea of image making has become the name of the game. The buzz is sometimes more important than the product, the packaging is almost stronger than the inside.” Undoubtedly, the fashion industry is moving at an increasing pace, with more pressure on designers to create not just new collections, but to also have attention-grabbing marketing and social media campaigns, corral legions of celebrity followers, and constantly mastermind collection after collection which will be a critical and commercial success. With increased technology and the birth of eCommerce, consumers have a constant ability to shop – which may seem like a blessing for sales, but the search for something new and exciting means consumers constantly need new offerings from designers, or they risk losing customers and sales to another, more productive, brand. It now seems that designers have a lifespan within a company; they come in, shake things up, make a quick profit for the company, and move on before consumers get bored.
Undoubtedly, it will be fascinating to watch what both of these talented designers do next.
By the way, Hedi is pronounced ed-ee. Now you know.