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Hedi Slimane Says Childhood Bullying Led to His Obsession With the Skinny Silhouette

In a rare interview with Yahoo Style, the designer also spoke at length about Saint Laurent's rebranding, his love for Los Angeles and his feelings on how social media changed fashion.
Hedi Slimane. Photo: Yahoo Style

Hedi Slimane. Photo: Yahoo Style

Considering the amount of press that has enveloped Hedi Slimane since he took creative lead of Saint Laurent in 2012 — not all of it positive — an astoundingly small percentage of it contains comment from the designer himself. The media-shy Slimane rarely grants interviews to outlets; in fact, when he first joined Saint Laurent, journalists complained about how tightly his PR team was controlling its message. He hasn't spoken in-depth about his re-branding strategy for the label, his studio in Los Angeles, the onslaught of criticism (despite soaring sales numbers) or his relationships with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé — that is, until now.

The designer is a longtime friend of Yahoo Style Editor in Chief Joe Zee, and to coincide with the news that Saint Laurent would be reintroducing couture, he conducted an interview over e-mail with former editor Dirk Standen for the site. It's a long read, but a sincere and insightful one that gives both fans and dissenters plenty of background on why he's taken Saint Laurent in its current direction. He also shares his feelings on the industry at large in the digital age, and Slimane — who is nowhere to be found on social media and doesn't invite much online press to his shows — views the changes positively, despite the relentless pace.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the interview, however, is when he delves into his personal life — including the bullying he faced in his childhood that led to his adoption of the skinny, androgynous silhouette as a signature:

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"There is always a part of what you do that refers to your childhood, or youth. I was precisely just like any of these guys I photograph, or that walk my shows. Jackets were always a little too big for me. Many in high school, or in my family, were attempting to make me feel I was half a man because I was lean, and not an athletic build. They were bullying me for some time, so that I might feel uncomfortable with myself, insinuating skinny was 'queer.' There was certainly something homophobic and derogative about those remarks. I was eating quite much, doing a lot of sport, but when I was 15, 16 or 17, that was simply the way I was built. 

I would turn to my music heroes, and this was comforting. They looked the same and I wanted to do everything to be like them, and not hide myself in baggy clothes to avoid negative comments. David Bowie, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Jones, Paul Weller, I felt connected to their allure, aesthetic and style."

Whether you're a fan of his designs or not, Standen's questions allow readers to really get a feel for Slimane's vision, beyond simply what comes down the runway or appears in his online visual diary — much like they did with that Internet-breaking Kanye West interview this past February. Head on over to Yahoo Style for the full story.