Burberry lost the s and Dior lost the Christian but the news that Yves Saint Laurent is unceremoniously dropping the first name of its eponymous founder does come as a bit of a surprise. Yet as the drive to rebrand old fashion houses into lucrative money spinning machines continues, a pared down brand name is considered part of the formula for success. The extent of the rebranding across product lines and difusion collections is unclear, and as yet, rather confusing.
The other twist in the YSL to Saint Laurent Paris story is of course that it comes as part of the appointment of Hedi Slimane. Its been reported in the fashion press as a bold gesture, aka the King is dead long live the King. But given the frequently short-lived relationship between designers and luxury fashion houses (popularly dubbed ‘designer musical chairs’) it’s also perhaps a smart move on the part of Slimane who knows that head honchos at luxury fashion conglomerates are rather quick to dismiss star designers who don’t quickly ramp up the bottom line. PPR’s compliance to Slimane’s terms that the name of the brand be changed, is not only a business strategy but surely something of an act of faith that PPR is in it for the long haul. changing those store fronts, packaging and media campaigns is costly business, and not something to be taken lightly. PPR must believe that Slimane can pull it off in order to hand over this kind of control.
Hedi Slimane has worked for YSL before, for five years from 1996 as director of YSL’s men’s collections. It will be interesting to see the spin Slimane, known for his forceful reinvention of the classic men’s suit, will being to women’swear (not something he has previously been known for).
The alchemy between YSL and the newly minted Saint Laurent Paris might prove to be in Slimane’s own reinvention of the men’s suit into razor sharp, skinny cuts, coupled with the reinvention that Yves Saint Laurent brought to women’s fashion in the seventies. Yves Saint Laurent’s masculine tailoring for his muses such as Catherine Deneuve and Bianca Jagger remain reference points for elegant, rebellious dressing. What Slimane will do in the context of the brand’s legacy but with his distinct creative vision will be interesting to watch, and clearly in the bold move of renaming the brand he has clear ideas about the direction he will take. Whether or not this risky move will pay off will be the subject of massive scrutiny as he unveils his first collection.