Saint Laurent: Hedi's Final Fantasy

As Hedi Slimane leaves Saint Laurent, Wonderland looks back at four years of fire.

From the moment Hedi Slimane took the reigns at Saint Laurent in 2012, he repositioned the fashion house at the intersection of high- fashion, youth culture, music and art. Axing the “Yves” and re-naming the brand Saint Laurent (provoking an onslaught of “Ain’t Laurent without the Yves” T-shirts and general uproar), Slimane slowly but surely re-mastered, re-engineered and re-defined the visual identity of the storied French fashion house. From a business perspective, Slimane’s four-year tenure saw him transform an unprofitable Yves Saint Laurent into Saint Laurent, a powerhouse positioned at the forefront of fashion, outperforming its peers to astronomical success. For everyone else, the words Saint Laurent started to embody new meaning, new possibilities, a new way of life.

Having spent seven years at the helm of Dior Homme, where he completely reconfigured industry perceptions of menswear through streamlined silhouettes and ultra-slim proportions, Slimane departed the house in 2007 to relocate to LA, pursuing his love of music and photography instead. Taking the reigns from Stefano Pilati at Saint Laurent in 2012, with Slimane’s reign came a number of firsts. From the moment he cast a woman – Saskia de Brauw – as the star of his inaugural menswear campaign and later selected the likes of Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson and Joni Mitchell to front Saint Laurent campaigns, to his decision to ditch Paris in favour of LA for the 50th anniversary of Yves’ Rive Gauche line (that saw a 93-look collection play out at LA’s Hollywood Palladium) — Slimane certainly shook things up.Twisting Saint Laurent’s tailoring traditions, he injected the brand with a new youthful rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic: Slimane’s personal love of music and youth subcultures were in the frame. Of course, a 360 degree approach was employed, not only did Slimane’s aesthetic resonate in his physical collections and in his personal body of work, but also in each casting decision, each carefully curated show soundtrack and in each and every Saint Laurent campaign.

Through his straight-up, unapologetic, sex appeal approach, Slimane captivated a new audience ranging from the rock stars seen sipping champagne on Saint Laurent’s overcrowded front row to LA’s adolescent bleached haired boys in torn-up T-shirts (a consequence of skateboarding, no less), and spray-on skinny black jeans. It’s the latter that provided endless inspiration for the designer who has successfully put youth culture back in our lexicon. It’s unexpected muses such as these that have found their way onto the catwalk, into campaigns and involved in collaborative projects. Often main features in the gritty black and white photographs displayed in the designer’s digital photo journal — Hedi Slimane’s much-followed Diary — his extensive documentation of music scenes was catalogued in Sonic, a five-month long exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Bergé in 2014, that showcased studio portraits of the likes of Lou Reed, Amy Winehouse and Keith Richards from Slimane’s 15-year strong archive.

However, it’s the fizzing energy of this new generation of emerging musicians, artists and general rock stars that has propelled Slimane’s vision for the past four years. From The Garden – LA’s identical twin punk duo Wyatt and Fletcher Shears – who Slimane plucked from obscurity to star in his AW13 menswear campaign, to his model/musician muse Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming, who’s now walked in four shows, Slimane profiled a laundry list of talent during his time at Saint Laurent.

Staging his final show in the restored 17th Century Hôtel de Sénecterre, Slimane’s models walked before a select handful of guests in compete silence, save for the voice of a woman calling each model’s number before they walked. An intimate affair that saw a couture collection inspired by the power dressing of the 80s unfold, despite the elegant, elevated surroundings, as Saint Laurent campaign star Paul Lemaire put it, “It was punk as hell”. From Lemaire, Cumming and musician Staz Lindes, to model Lili Sumner and teen-artist and collaborator (on Slimane’s Surf Sound collection) Lucia Ribisi — here, Slimane’s muses muse on him.


Wonderland: How was your first encounter with Hedi, how was it working with him?

Staz: He came to photograph my brother’s band Sad Girl and my good friend’s band Wild Wing. It was the music video release show for Sad Girl and we joined the bill super last minute. It’s incredible to see somebody work like that. He knows exactly what he wants in a sea of a thousand clothes. He works so insanely hard and still finds his own time to photograph shows. He is super inspiring, obviously.

W: What’s your most memorable Saint Laurent moment?

S: Getting to walk the Saint Laurent show at the Palladium. I walked in front of Krist Novoselic as well as Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams – two of my absolute heroes!


W: How did you find the last show at the couture house? Did you feel punk in that environment?

Paul: At the beginning of it I felt like I wasn’t in my place, but as the show was going on I stared at the looks and without the music I became more focused on the clothes. It was punk as hell, even if the presentation was classy.

W: What was the stand-out moment?

P: I also got to see Hedi one more time before he left YSL and there are no words to explain how good it was because I think this guy is a genius, yet still modest and friendly.This experience was just amazing.


W: What’s the most memorable moment of your time spent collaborating with Hedi for his SS16 Surf Sound collection?

Lucia: Getting the initial text from Hedi at seven in the morning in my dorm room in Napa. I woke my room mate up with cries of joy and excitement.The sparkle that exploded in me from the romanticism associated with this opportunity will never fade.


W: How did it feel to close Hedi’s last show in the heart-shaped cape?

Lili: It was wonderful, how beautiful was it? I believe the heart shape was a nod to how Yves himself used to put a heart around his favourite look in each show.The absence of super loud music felt very special too, we had to be in a completely different mood. It was like a meditation, everyone breathing together (and gasping!).

W: Why has Saint Laurent under Hedi been so exciting and so special?

L: Because Hedi’s a brilliant guy who doesn’t cut corners and operates from true devotion, the whole team with Hedi was absolutely brilliant. I’ve not worked with another team quite like it.


W: What are your memories of the first Saint Laurent show you ever walked in?

Julia: It was different to anything I had ever experienced.They are a very unique fashion house with a super-high level of artistry in everything they do. I feel lucky to be around that level of dedication. Just like in any industry, there are things about the world of fashion that I don’t love, but it would be difficult for me to be involved heavily in something I didn’t care about or feel connection to.The work that Saint Laurent does with musicians, especially unknown musicians is very special. And the way they focus on the model as an individual, their imperfections, their character, that speaks to me a lot.

All clothing and accessories by SAINT LAURENT by HEDI SLIMANE

All clothing and accessories by SAINT LAURENT by HEDI SLIMANE
Alex Sainsbury
Matthew Josephs
Shiori Takahashi
Pablo Rodriguez at CLM Hair & Make-Up using YSL BEAUTY
Photographer's Assistant
Jordan Grant
Fashion Assistants
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe & Olivia
Alicia at Models One
Brooke McCord
Saint Laurent: Hedi's Final Fantasy

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