In a world of constant self-promotion and social media saturation, Hedi Slimane remains something of an enigma. He is famously reserved with the media, often clad in a black leather jacket and jeans, and has refrained from social media, cultivating a certain mystique around himself. Someone once called him the “James Dean of the haute couture world.”
THE INFLUENCE OF HEDI SLIMANE
Slimane’s influence on the fashion industry is undeniable. He is known for his edgy and minimal design aesthetic, which has served as the backbone of his creative output across various fashion houses over the years. While at Dior Homme, he shook up the menswear fashion industry by introducing an androgynous skinny silhouette at the turn of the 21st century, which in part influenced in the gradual shift away from the bulky, muscular male physiques that had dominated the fashion industry in the 1990s, toward a leaner, more stylish male aesthetic.
“An athletic man, or whatever you want to call him, will only look good in a very classic suit, a pair of classic jeans, athletic clothes or simply naked. Forget fashion. This is not going to happen, unless you want to look like a Chippendales dancer in designer clothes,” he once said.
SLIMANE’S DIOR HOMME
Slimane is widely credited with popularizing a slimmer silhouette for men, including the rise of “skinny jeans” while at Dior in the early 2000s. During his tenure, Dior’s business grew, and he developed fans around the world, including celebrities like Brad Pitt, who had Slimane create his wedding suit. Although he never designed a womenswear collection, he dressed female celebrities like Madonna and Nicole Kidman during his tenure at Dior. He furthermore created stagewear for groups such as The Libertines, Daft Punk, Franz Ferdinand, and The Kills and artists such as Mick Jagger, Beck, and Jack White.
SAINT LAURENT UNDER HEDI SLIMANE
At Yves Saint Laurent, Slimane famously and controversially dropped the “Yves” from the ready-to-wear branding, while also reforming the image and look of the brand, infusing the label with his own sense of modern rock n’ roll chic. During his time at Saint Laurent, Slimane developed a devoted following, and many Slimane-era pieces such as the L01 leather jacket and Wyatt harness boots remain coveted items for fans and fashion enthusiasts.
Despite some mixed reactions to his Saint Laurent collections, Slimane’s designs, heavily influenced by youth culture and the music scene, also garnered impressive commercial success. With a significantly smaller retail network of just 142 stores compared to larger luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci, the brand managed to achieve sales growth of more than 20 percent annually under his helm, outperforming the overall luxury goods market at the time.
A LOVE OF MUSIC AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Slimane’s penchant for casting artists and musicians as his models led to Jane Birkin, Courtney Love, Curtis Harding, and members of the band Cherry Glazerr either modeling Saint Laurent in ads or on the catwalk. Aside from fashion, Slimane is also a respected photographer, working only in crisp, stark, black and white. He has photographed many of his sartorial inspirations, including Keith Richards, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, John Cale, Eric Burdon, Joni Mitchell, Josh Homme, and a host of other hallowed names.
“Since I was a child, my whole life has revolved around music. It’s often while listening to a song that ideas for my fashion collections formed,” Slimane once said.
HEDI SLIMANE AT CELINE
In 2018, Hedi Slimane became creative director for Celine. Following the rebranding direction, Slimane dropped the French accent for Céline, as well as dropping Paris from the name, making it simply Celine. Slimane roused mixed reactions for his personal incarnation of Celine – some deifying the designer and praising his return, while others heavily reprimanded the Saint Laurent-ification of Celine, as Slimane imposed his signature slender style onto the French brand.
“The less I explain, the better I do. Honors are important for others. What interests me is doing things”. – Hedi Slimane
Some have criticized Hedi Slimane‘s work at Celine, claiming that he missed the mark and produced an outdated version of what today’s youth represents. In 2021, in a radical attempt to regain his spot in the fashion industry, Slimane turned to TikTok, partnering with influencers who had become known for their “E-boy” style. The resulting show took on a colorful and casual style noticeably different from Slimane’s past work, shedding the monochromatic rock n’ roll styles for bright yellow Vans-inspired shoes, loose floral pants, bucket hats, and fanny packs. While some saw this as a refreshing change, others saw it as an attempt to chase after a trend.
However, for Celine’s Autumn/Winter 2023 runway show, Slimane returned to his signature styling and rock n roll influence. After a five-year sojourn wherein he decamped to Paris and St Tropez, Slimane came blazing back to the City of Angels with Celine’s first physical show format since before the pandemic, accompanied by a rock concert, featuring live performances from Iggy Pop, The Strokes, and Interpol, plus a DJ set from The Kills. Slimane’s runway represented all the style codes that he has created for himself over his 30-year career.
WILL HEDI EVER LAUNCH HIS OWN BRAND?
Despite his undeniable success at the helm of major fashion houses such as Dior Homme, Saint Laurent, and Celine, some have questioned Hedi Slimane’s creative desires and whether he will ever launch an eponymous label. Slimane has never had his own brand and has denied rumours over the years that he has the intention or desire to launch one. Instead, he has essentially created his own brand under the names of others, infusing his style and influence into the houses that have employed him. From dark, skinny suiting at Dior Homme to rock n roll styling at Saint Laurent and Celine, Slimane has threaded his codes into each brand’s DNA. It remains to be seen if Slimane will ever step out with his own eponymous label or continue to shape the industry from within established fashion houses.