Despite all the controversy, outrage, and negative critical reviews, Hedi Slimane’s first year at Saint Laurent is going pretty much as planned.
According to Eric Wilson’s lengthy profile on the designer in today’s New York Times, Slimane “expected” the reviews would be “dreadful.” In fact, it might all be part of some weird plan of his.
“Hedi wants to shock,” Pierre Bergé told the Times. “When you are an artist you are obliged to shock.” Well, we guess that explains those Marilyn Manson ads.
As for the sometimes scathing reviews of his collections, Slimane’s not worried about those either. According to those in Slimane’s camp, the designer “is less interested in critical opinion than what is happening with styles among the youth culture of Los Angeles.”
And though he’s divisive, there’s no question he’s getting attention: Saint Laurent’s fall 2013 show was the second most viewed collection on Style.com. According to NYT, the house had not managed to get into the top 10–let alone the top five–most-viewed collections before Slimane was appointed.
That’s not the only category in which Slimane has bested former Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati. Apparently, the house was largely unprofitable under Pilati–according to NYT, it didn’t make a “substantial profit” until 2010, six year’s into Pilati’s tenure. Slimane’s clothes, on the other hand, have been selling like hotcakes.
“When we were buying the collection,” said Jeffrey founder Jeffrey Kalinsky. “I felt like I was seeing dollar signs.”
Bergdorf Goodman is building special departments for Saint Laurent in its men’s and women’s stores–a serious vote of confidence in the collection. And we hear that it’s flying off the racks at Barneys too, with several styles selling out. The Times reports that 60 percent of Barneys’s spring order had sold at full price as of last week. Certain jacket styles–like the leather perfectos–are doing so well at retail that pricepoints are being raised for next season.
Part of the reason for the disparity of opinions between buyers and critics, might be because, up close, the clothes are much more luxurious looking than they appear on the runway. “In the Saint Laurent showroom,” Wilson writes, “The runway clothes appear well made and priced for a luxury customer.” He goes on to describe several covetable pieces, which “looked like nothing on the runway.” Leah can confirm, having just seen the clothes up close herself while visiting the showroom, that the pieces really do look rich up close–especially the coats, leather pants, and stellar accessories (she thinks the unisex Saint Laurent bootie will provide some serious competition in that department for Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone, and Acne).
Well, one thing is clear: Whether you love him or hate him, it looks like Hedi Slimane is here to stay. At least for now, that is.