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Saint Laurent Couture Salons/photo by Hedi Slimane

After going to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit in Denver and hearing that newly appointed Creative Director Yves Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane’s design studio would be based out of Los Angeles, my interest in the brand was piqued.

Slimane relocated to Los Angeles after he left Dior Homme in 2007, and focused on a career in art and photography. He talks about Los Angeles in an interview with Dazed Digital:

I feel Los Angeles offers the possibility for each artist to create a body of work outside of any distraction, expectation or speculation. LA is only a circus for the movie stars. For the rest of the mortals, it is tranquility and focus. It is somehow a free, wide territory to explore, to invent, or reinvent, outside preconceived ideas. There is also this tradition here, from renowned artists, such as Charles Ray for instance, to teach in art schools. To somehow project this idea of an artistic community and history.

Los Angeles, together with NY, exported since the last world war, the idea of Americana. The impact of Los Angeles was considerable on the rest of the world, in the making of a “youth” identity or “teen age” universal language. From James Dean, and the birth of teen idols to Venice beach invention of the skate subculture, etc etc, Los Angeles has created over decades a specific lexical for the global representation of youth.

Since being hired on at YSL, Slimane has caused waves by rebranding his ready-to-wear collections under the “Saint Laurent Paris” name, taking a page from the past when YSL’s ready-to-wear collection debuted in 1966 and was called “Saint Laurent Rive Gauche”. WWD reports:

Slimane would return the house to its “original branding” and thereby “restoring the house to its truth, purity and essence — and taking it into a new era” while “respecting the original principles and ideals.”

Yves Saint Laurent in front of one of his first boutiques in the 1970s

Earlier this month, Slimane presented his first resort and menswear collection in a showroom in Paris, but only to buyers, not to critics. The rationale assumed was that it’s a transitional collection, that Slimane didn’t want the media to make it a competition with another debut – Raf Simons at Dior, and/or he was waiting for the fall shows to knock people’s socks off. However, since buyers do talk:

The resort collection is said to be inspired by the early days of Saint Laurent — think of the famous photo Helmut Newton took for French Vogue in 1975 on Rue Aubriot, with a nude woman in stilettos standing next to another woman in a skinny tux with a blouse dripping a bow if you want the quick-twitch reference. So reports are of skinny suiting, always a Slimane signature, but also, more surprisingly (and interestingly) little silk dresses with bias-cut mini-skirts covered in tiny dots, the tops referencing the tux blouse, both sleeved and not, with a touch of Ossie Clarke.

Recently, Slimane has caused another disapproving uproar on the brand’s Facebook page by posting a picture of the new logo, which references the typography Yves Saint Laurent used in 1966 rather than the interlocking letters designed by Cassandre used for the past half century.

Saint Laurent/photo by Hedi Slimane

While at first I thought it was silly to throw away the instant brand cache YSL brings by renaming it to Saint Laurent Paris, I now feel it’s a step in the right direction. A large change in course (or healthy reference to the past) might be the jumpstart the brand needs to regain that earlier critical excitement of YSL. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what Hedi Slimane has up his sleeve…

Sources: Daily Mail, Dazed Digital, Financial Times, WWD