Born a timid introvert who was constantly mocked in his native Algerian culture, Yves was never a confident, outgoing child. However, he took Paris and the fashion world by storm at the age of 21 after receiving the director position at Dior. Shortly after, Yves and Dior severed ties after a brief few years, devastating for him at the time but an insurmountable gift for the industry. The controversial early Dior collections were ahead of their times, and the conservative Dior customers wanted nothing to do with the high street while the niche market that celebrated street style could hardly afford anything that came down the runway. Caused by the struggle for artistic freedom, the house of Yves Saint Laurent was born.
Redefining how the contemporary woman should dress, the sensational Le Smoking Jacket was an instant hit and remains one of the most lusted-after wardrobe items today. The framework for Saint Laurent’s stigma was set there and then. It’s androgynous, rebellious, dark, yet iconic. It’s openly sensual, yet incredibly intimate. No single element sustains this stigma, but the fusion of it all.
After Hedi Slimane’s takeover of Saint Laurent in 2012, the brand injected a fusion of youth and modernism into the glam rock foundation of its ready to wear lines. Slimane revisited many of the archive pieces and updated them with contemporary touches of allure and sensuality. While taking revenue to record heights, Slimane also lifted the company’s brand image and powerful influence with music projects. Kim Gordon, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, and Ariel Pink championed the rock star chic aesthetic. The campaign was a parallel drawn between Slimane and Saint Laurent himself who has designed for the likes of Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
Slimane certainly did not fail to match his predecessor when he put the world of music and fashion in awe by dressing the enigmatic Daft Punk. Silver and gold chrome helmets, sequin laced tuxedo jackets, and shiny heeled boots teleport viewers to the bygone French disco scene. In one perspective, the music projects separated the stars in rock bands with rock stars. While individuals in rock bands can be stars, not all those stars are rock stars.
Saint Laurent and Hedi Slimane have created a label that is frequently associated today with adrenaline-fueled musicians and celebrities alike, but what separates the label from others are the people who live the clothes they wear. Pieces can be bought, but the aura of this deeply rooted brand culture can only come authentically from the figures in the garments themselves.
COVER PHOTO: The Guardian