Hedi Slimane VS the Fashion World

9:00 AM

Charlie Porter recently wrote a great article about Hedi Slimane and his detractors which I strongly encourage you to read. It brings up a great discussion about designer vs stylist using Hedi as a prime example. It's a critique against him that has been brought up time and time again, which honestly has become exhausting. The criticism is: Hedi's work with Saint Laurent isn't necessary "good design" more than it is "good styling".

Let me start this by making it clear: I am a fan of Hedi's work. I think he has been incredibly successful in taking a high fashion luxury label and turn it into covetable pieces wanted by all age groups and all tastes. Pieces that can be worked and worn in a variety of ways. And lastly that tap into the fashion market in a way that not many luxury designers have been able to. Simply look at the numbers, Saint Laurent under Hedi is a bestseller. While some YSL fashion purists cry "quelle horreur!" to Hedi's changes with the house, it is interesting to note that Pierre Bergé (partner to Yves Saint Laurent) in an interview with Suzy Menkes states:

To imagine that this successor would copy and re-make Saint Laurent until the end of time is equally idiotic. A successor to replace Saint Laurent must have his own vision and talent.  

He goes on to comment that while he doesn't quite like all of Hedi's designs, he acknowledges his talent and he likes him, "a lot - a lot." In that same interview Suzy goes on to mention that some people don't like Hedi because he's not at the caliber that Saint Laurent was. To which Bergé goes on to say: 

When people say that Slimane is not at the level of Saint Laurent… Yes, perhaps. Probably. But I don't know a single person at Yves Saint Laurent's level..

But to come back to the whole reason for this discussion: what traits make a designer versus what traits make a stylist. Dora Fung comments: "Slimane hasn’t really ‘designed;’ he hasn’t deconstructed anything or remade anything,” however, I beg to differ. In an article about U.S. designers creating clothes that have transatlantic aesthetic Caroline Issa had a great blurb about designers:  

 There are two kinds of fashion designer. The first uses fashion for a life imagined, as a means of fantasy and escape... And then there are designers who use it as a means of sharing their personal experiences with the world, looking to clothes to reveal themselves and creating pieces that reflect the things they do on an everyday basis.  

 Hedi's designs do exactly the second. They share his love of music, his love of art, & his love of youth subcultures often not represented, underrepresented, or falsely represented in high fashion. He is consistent in his aesthetic bringing in loyalty among buyers who know what they are looking for and know what Hedi will bring to them. His designs are no frills, to the point, constructed phenomenally and most importantly look good on their owners.

In regards to the "he hasn't remade anything comment", well he has. That leather jacket that looks so artfully boxy but fits perfectly in the right places while flattering the wearer's silhouette is good design AND is remaking something regardless of how subtle it may be. It's easy to simply take a cookie cutter pattern then copy and paste it so that it looks uniform but is slightly ill fitting on the public majority (a la fast fashion) but it's completely different to take something and tailor it in a way that instantly enhances the wearer. Remaking it from what could have been considered simply a flea market find into something beautiful and desirable. He describes his design process as:

Avoiding unnecessary detail, an awkward pocket, no conceptual proportions or construction, simplifying with the best quality possible.

Am I arguing that all his pieces are successful? Definitely not, as with any designer there are successes and failures but to say that Hedi is simply a stylist who is able to manipulate the pieces to look good on the runway but have no substance beyond that is missing the point. Whether these clothes are half hanging off the models in an attempt to convey a particular mood for a runway show or worn in a more traditional manner on the street they are clothes that fit extremely well and are made even better.

Going back to Charlie's post, I loved this quote from him:

It’s why so many find his (Hedi's) catwalk shows confounding. After four weeks spent dominated by brands offering unnecessary “design”, it’s a shock to find a catwalk from a major label not playing that game. Not speaking that old fashion language.

 That's it right there. Good design goes beyond insane embellishments, over the top pieces, deconstructing and remaking it's about what works and what becomes instantaneously recognizable as that particular designer's work. And what Hedi creates not only works but is definitely good design. 

For more interesting reads on Hedi & Saint Laurent:

(Photo from: Vogue)

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