Last week, after months of speculation, Saint Laurent Paris announced that Hedi Slimane would be leaving his post as creative director. His replacement: Anthony Vaccarello, most recently creative director of Versace’s sister label Versus. The appointment doesn’t come as much of a surprise—Vaccarello’s aesthetic is right in line with Slimane’s Saint Laurent. That is; young, sexy, edgy and yes, streetwise. All words no one would have used to describe the iconic French house four years ago.
Before he landed at Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane had women—from Nicole Kidman to Madonna—clamouring for menswear as creative director at Dior Homme. No small feat considering how little interest the men’s presentations generate compared to the global hoopla of ladies-only fashion month. So it was with great excitement that the industry received the news in 2012 that Slimane would be helming Yves Saint Laurent as creative director. Visions of razor sharp Le Smokings danced in our heads.
Instead, we got a new name, new logo and new L.A.-based head-office. In other words, the antithesis of Paris. His collections read like a rock classics Spotify playlist, alternating between ’70s, ’80s and ’90s silhouettes that had most critics aghast. Hedi fans have lauded the designer for elevating the fashion show to rock show status—a classic case of fashion amnesia considering Gianni Versace was the ne plus ultra of rock-meets-fashion trailblazers. Given Vaccarello’s Versace-approved pedigree, we can be sure the rock anthems will continue to blare on Saint Laurent runways.
Slimane’s Saint Laurent was no reinvention of the wheel, but it was a shrewd reinvention of fashion. He took a label that was rooted in the classic concept of clothing for the elite and made it accessible to the masses. (Visually, anyway, the price points are still one-percent oriented.) Vaccarello, too, is known for his forward thinking approach to the business, having embraced the see-now-buy-now strategy at Versus. Aesthetically, the two are on the same sexy, youthful page. Vaccarello’s most recent fall collection for Versus had a whiff of the new Saint Laurent, with military jackets and body skimming silhouettes, although his forte is in the barely-there sexiness that defines the Versace house.
Ultimately, both designers seem hell-bent on taking fashion labels out of their ivory ateliers and putting them on the street. It’s a strategy that, business-wise at least, is working. The New York Times reports that the house posted over 1 billion euros in revenue in 2015, up from 354 million euros prior to Hedi’s appointment in 2012. Clearly, the fashion flock has spoken. No doubt it all has Yves turning in his grave.