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02-09-2013
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Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent - A Mistake?
I visited the Saint Laurent store on Bond Street today after almost a year of not visiting. I went in search of a double breasted cape from the fall 2013 menswear collection (yes, that terrible collection had one or two really nice pieces). Unfortunately, the item I was looking for was sold out. In fairness, I have been very critical of Hedi's work at YSL; about almost everything from the name change all the way to the revolution of the brand's aesthetic. At the same time however, I have always thought that if I see these clothes in person, my mind would instantly be reversed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I was actually really sad (it reminded me of how passionate i can be of fashion sometimes). Here are some of the highlights of the discussions I had with some of the sales people:

- Main sales people have been very unhappy and are upset with the current direction of the brand as many old customers have deserted it mainly due to the fact that the aesthetic has changed drastically and most of the clothes are so tight, you would have to go up a size or two. I tried a leather sweater, M ( i am usually S or M) and it couldn't go through my head.

- Sales have gone down significantly in menswear and accessories (saving graces are a blue/black/green varsity jacket in men's which retails for about £1200 and Stefano's accessories in women's). Targets have apparently been lowered to match the down turn in sales. (for Europe alone).

-Most of the clothes look very generic even though they are well made (as expected from a luxury fashion house). It looked like a glorified version of Topman. Some pieces are grossly over priced including a rabbit fur jacket with little hand painted details which retails for £10700 - apparently an Arab guy stopped himself from buying it once he found out it was rabbit.

- As stated previously, clothes are well made, but not better than before; in fact, one of the sales persons said the tailoring is not as good as before - i couldn't really clarify as i didn't try any tailored pieces.

During the time i spent in the store desperately looking for something to desire, I kept thinking "I can find this anywhere" or "this is a bit too nostalgic for my liking". My take on this is that PPR (Kerring) made an initial mistake by hiring Hedi, but this is one they have to live with for a while. It seemed to me that they relied mainly on his past glories and pre-existing customer base. Times have changed and many of the things he started have been widely copied. A similar scenario to that of YSL himself. So, I think Hedi should get to terms with the fact that he cannot keep designing like he was back in 2005,6,7 when he was at Dior Homme. I think he should respect the brands heritage in a more obvious way whilst still staying true to himself. At the same time, alienating old customers in the hopes of replacing them with entirely new ones is not working very well; at least in Europe; another factor that should be taken into account. If his has an over inflated ego, he should work on reducing it.

So, once again, I think while PPR might have made an initial mistake, replacing Hedi may cost them even more (due to all the changes and also, sourcing out the right candidate may take ages). They have to make the best out of this situation and it seems like they are. Judging by the current cruise collection, it looks as though they are rectifying this mistake. Hopefully he will get better from here on and be more consistent. I am eagerly looking forward to see what he does next. And btw, I eventually found the cape at Selfridges and it was awesome!

For all those still interested in this, what are your thoughts?

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02-09-2013
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While I do not like his vision of the brand at all wether it is for menswear or womenswear , I always end up thinking "Well, if it sells well, then so be it". Indeed, that would be the only thing that would make me answer to your question. But I just cannot find any reliable infos regarding how well or not he is doing sales-wise. Maybe someone could enlighten me?

However, I did hear too from one of my tutors that the SAs were not happy at all with the current direction... As I do not care enough about Hedi's work (/ do not want to be associated with what the brand has become) to go to one of their boutiques, I only visited their corner at Le Printemps. It pretty much confirmed what I had seen online which is that the clothes are generic and unappealing unless you're a certain kind of customer -- I did like a pair of suede boots though

What I think is a mistake, is how drastic the change was and how quick. I guess it was probably in his contract but such a change of identity for a brand that was not really lacking of one, felt really strange.

With all the investments/spendings that were made in this rebranding, Hedi only has one choice now: sell sell sell.

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02-09-2013
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I saw potential in his first collection (despite the general feelings about it). You could see the YSL references but also Hedi's signature on it. Since then, it's really all gone down hill for me. Some of the commercial pieces that make it into stores are nice, and I do find myself liking some of it. However, I didn't agree with firing Stefano Pilati in the first place, I thought he was doing fine.

As someone who studied marketing/branding/business I cannot fathom the incredibly alienation the brand has done of their core customers however. The YSL woman who was there during Tom and Stefano's year would never dream of wearing the stuff Hedi is making. I cannot believe they did the rebrand so fast and so full scale, it's a huge and risky move that has yet to prove if it was worth it. But the bottom line for me is if Hedi wants to do this overpriced hipster/grunge wear under his own label, more power to him, but I don't like the fact that it's being done under the Saint Laurent name.

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02-09-2013
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So interesting, thanks for this thread.

I think SAs being unhappy points pretty well to poor sales, right?

I too am a bit mystified at why this change was ever made in the first place. Perhaps the PPR guys could learn a lesson from this ... sometimes when making something happen is quite difficult, it means you shouldn't do it.

And btw, there's another little technique you may have heard about called cutting your losses.

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02-09-2013
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My main problem with his direction is a complete disregard of the heritige of YSL! It is too big to be ignored on such scale.

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02-09-2013
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To me, Hedi at Saint Laurent feels like PPR trying to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place. The disregard for the brands heritage is what annoys me about Hedi at SL and I guess that also sits badly with long-time SL fans.
At least I can give props to Hedi for having a very clear, defined direction he wants to follow. Although I don't like it for Saint Laurent, I can't deny that he executes his vision very well.

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02-09-2013
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^ It seems that many designers customize their vision to fit the heritage of the brand ... not all do, but IMO the best do. Olivier Theyskens is a good example ... there are clear differences between his work for his own label, Rochas, Nina Ricci, and now Theyskens Theory. My perception is that Hedi seems to have a single way of doing things that he implements wherever he goes. Very one-note ...

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02-09-2013
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Disclaimer: the following is from someone who likes Hedi and found several pieces to my liking in the collection

--I have been to a few of the SL boutiques and I found the SA's to be rather enthusiastic about the offerings. The newly opened store in Soho (NYC), in particular, felt this way. I have heard that LA is similar. I find it quite odd that they are willing to speak so candidly with customers about their distaste for the brand/direction it has taken...I'd be too worried about those "undercover" shoppers that companies often send to understand the level of service being provided. There was a very nice guy at the Old Bond St. store who was wearing the clothes and looked ver much the Hedi aesthetic (tall, lanky) and was a great help.

I can certainly understand, however, their frustration of ultimately having to rebuild their client lists, due to the 180 degree change in the direction of the house. At the end of the day, assuming they make a commission, it must be hard to keep up if they are starting from scratch.

After reading the profile Vogue did on him in the September issue, I think it is easier to see that he doesn't have a complete disregard for the house and the heritage. Rather, he is interpreting it in his own way. I think what annoys people most is that what he is doing is radically different from what Tom and Stefano were doing, and what he is showing isn't what they would typically expect from the house.

With all that said, I certainly do think there is a trial and error situation happening. There are hits (in some peoples eyes) and there are misses, but this change wasn't something that was going to happen overnight and be a slam dunk success. I just find it hard to believe that PPR made this decision on a whim. It isn't like all of this creative freedom and responsibility given to Hedi wasn't spoken about prior to him signing the deal. I think it is an easy way to place blame, because some people's expectations haven't been met.

Of course, at the end of the day, money must be made and the proof is in the pudding. So, who knows, only time will tell...

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02-09-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fashionista-ta View Post
^ It seems that many designers customize their vision to fit the heritage of the brand ... not all do, but IMO the best do. Olivier Theyskens is a good example ... there are clear differences between his work for his own label, Rochas, Nina Ricci, and now Theyskens Theory. My perception is that Hedi seems to have a single way of doing things that he implements wherever he goes. Very one-note ...
I can certainly agree with that, but is being one-note always a bad thing? Perhaps in this situation, people would say yes, but for me it goes back to the decision to hire him. PPR knew what he was about, who he is, and he is clearly a very directional person. So perhaps it is what they wanted, or felt they needed, and are now monitoring the situation to see how it goes...

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02-09-2013
  10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KissMiss View Post
My main problem with his direction is a complete disregard of the heritige of YSL! It is too big to be ignored on such scale.
Just curious... Why do you say that? There are some pieces in the collection that are identical to some Yves did in the 60's and 70's.


You can like or not... I don't really like it, but that's one thing, and saying he disregards the heritage of Yves is another one.

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02-09-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ogepma View Post
I visited the Saint Laurent store on Bond Street today after almost a year of not visiting. I went in search of a double breasted cape from the fall 2013 menswear collection (yes, that terrible collection had one or two really nice pieces). Unfortunately, the item I was looking for was sold out. In fairness, I have been very critical of Hedi's work at YSL; about almost everything from the name change all the way to the revolution of the brand's aesthetic. At the same time however, I have always thought that if I see these clothes in person, my mind would instantly be reversed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I was actually really sad (it reminded me of how passionate i can be of fashion sometimes). Here are some of the highlights of the discussions I had with some of the sales people:

- Main sales people have been very unhappy and are upset with the current direction of the brand as many old customers have deserted it mainly due to the fact that the aesthetic has changed drastically and most of the clothes are so tight, you would have to go up a size or two. I tried a leather sweater, M ( i am usually S or M) and it couldn't go through my head.

- Sales have gone down significantly in menswear and accessories (saving graces are a blue/black/green varsity jacket in men's which retails for about £1200 and Stefano's accessories in women's). Targets have apparently been lowered to match the down turn in sales. (for Europe alone).

-Most of the clothes look very generic even though they are well made (as expected from a luxury fashion house). It looked like a glorified version of Topman. Some pieces are grossly over priced including a rabbit fur jacket with little hand painted details which retails for £10700 - apparently an Arab guy stopped himself from buying it once he found out it was rabbit.

- As stated previously, clothes are well made, but not better than before; in fact, one of the sales persons said the tailoring is not as good as before - i couldn't really clarify as i didn't try any tailored pieces.

During the time i spent in the store desperately looking for something to desire, I kept thinking "I can find this anywhere" or "this is a bit too nostalgic for my liking". My take on this is that PPR (Kerring) made an initial mistake by hiring Hedi, but this is one they have to live with for a while. It seemed to me that they relied mainly on his past glories and pre-existing customer base. Times have changed and many of the things he started have been widely copied. A similar scenario to that of YSL himself. So, I think Hedi should get to terms with the fact that he cannot keep designing like he was back in 2005,6,7 when he was at Dior Homme. I think he should respect the brands heritage in a more obvious way whilst still staying true to himself. At the same time, alienating old customers in the hopes of replacing them with entirely new ones is not working very well; at least in Europe; another factor that should be taken into account. If his has an over inflated ego, he should work on reducing it.

So, once again, I think while PPR might have made an initial mistake, replacing Hedi may cost them even more (due to all the changes and also, sourcing out the right candidate may take ages). They have to make the best out of this situation and it seems like they are. Judging by the current cruise collection, it looks as though they are rectifying this mistake. Hopefully he will get better from here on and be more consistent. I am eagerly looking forward to see what he does next. And btw, I eventually found the cape at Selfridges and it was awesome!

For all those still interested in this, what are your thoughts?
Thanks for your insight it made my day! It validates what I always thought! I guess initially there was a rush in sales at YSL because of the celebrity of Hedi but once they realized the aesthetic is so severe now they moved on
Hedi's aesthetic works in menswear because mens fashion is much more static and you more or less recycle the same looks every season

Womenswear is dynamic and rapidly changes in comparison to menswearbut as another member mentioned hedi's aesthetic is very "one note" and in womenswear that never works

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02-09-2013
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Interesting take... I was actually looking forward to what Slimane would do for YSL - I expected a sort of early Dior Homme sleek cat vibe that recalls the sort of almost fetish Le Smoking, plastic mac phase of YSL, a sexier take on what Philo is doing at Celine.

Instead, it was "Grunge", which might be ok if there's some of the genuine original rebellion woven in,...but it was facile, airhead LA Grunge, Courtney Love & Rachel Zoey "Grunge"....AAARRRGGGHHH! It's an expensive nostalgia head trip Hedi Slimane coming-of-age "Grunge" journey forced onto YSL, the venerable fashion house.

I am as disdainful of these "big brands" & their "marketing" , but this Slimane self-indulgence is really too, too much, especially when the result is such stupid, dumb, "fashion".

Some other designers did make beautiful pieces out of the "grunge" inspiration, but unfortunately, not Hedi Slimane. His take is too up-tight, too "rockstar" pretentious, he missed that free-spirited aspect of Grunge.

The result just irritates the hell out of me.

Now the designer I hope to see head YSL would be Nicolas Ghesquière, his departure left a huge gulf, seeing how his widely condemned SS11-SS12 are still influencing collections today, but PPR has burnt this bridge.

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02-09-2013
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ogepma I'm really not calling you a liar, but at the same time I find really hard to believe that sales people from a store would give a customer such detailed and insightful info about how the business are going, especially if it was indeed going bad...

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02-09-2013
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What troubles me most about Slimane's appointment is that it is the backwash of capital vs. creativity.

Quote:
Both moves [Ghesquière > Wang, Pilati > Slimane] provoked a sharp intake of breath in the fashion world. Ghesquière and Pilati had won consistent plaudits for their craftsmanship, their seriousness, their flair. Both designers had brought their labels back from the dead and were making pots of money. (YSL's sales, still piloted by Pilati, grew over 40 percent in the first half of 2012.) "The numbers were very good, so it took real courage to say, 'We can do better,'" said Floraine de Saint Pierre, a fashion recruiter who has worked with PPR.

The Man Behind The Curtain. T: The NYT Style Magazine Spring 2013
In their pursuit of lofty fiscal growth, they sacrificed brilliant and mature designs and identity for Slimane's vacuous interpretation. I accept the importance of a brand bringing in money, fashion is after all largely a business, but there has to balance between the creative and the corporate. YSL was doing great aesthetically and financially, consistently posting double digits growth even though Pilati's adulated designs were criticized for not being marketable enough. Problem arises when the balance is disturbed, in this case the corporate side wanted more.

After all the changes Slimane made it was disconcerting to see what he had to offer with his S/S '13. We all know the "negative" comparison's it garnered; Zara, Rachel Zoe, uninspiring, repetitive, etc. I MAY have looked the other way on the rapid changes, stories of diva behavior, PR mishaps, and insolence on twitter, if he was able to put together a brilliant collection of substance instead of ones of deficient concepts. This continued into his menswear and recent Fall '13 collection. Then to add insult to injuring he aligns the brand with impotent celebrities (Sky Ferreira, really??).

His designs have been as commercial as gets, the problem is I don't think most customers are ready to pay the exorbitant prices for something readily available at a high street or thrift store. I think they underestimated customers, especially luxury customers, who are looking for those special pieces that set them apart, Slimane's SL does not quite offer that. So they may have missed the mark in their quest to "do better."


Last edited by VogueDisciple93; 02-09-2013 at 06:04 PM.
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02-09-2013
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I remember when I visited the Valentino boutique after they let Alessandra go and her clothes were still there, the SAs had opinions and we talked about it. (I also really felt, seeing the clothes in context, how clear it was that she had respected the heritage of the house.) I didn't inquire about sales, but it doesn't seem at all unusual to me that one could establish a rapport and have a conversation like this. Practically everyone likes to share their opinions.

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