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When Kering-owned Saint Laurent and Hedi Slimane officially parted ways in April, somewhat as a surprise given the commercial success of Slimane's designs, it felt like one of the most drama-free designer departures of recent memory. The term "fired" was never used, there was no talk of burnout, etc.
But nearly three months later, with Slimane's replacement Anthony Vaccarello already at work, the designer's relationship with his former employer has hit a snag. Somewhat confusingly, Slimane has entered into legal proceedings with Kering because he wants the company to reinstate the non-compete clause that it lifted at the time of his departure. Reuters was first to report the lawsuit, and Kering provided us with the following statement:
The procedure regards the usual non-competition obligations that accompanied Hedi Slimane’s collaboration with the Yves Saint Laurent Maison. Kering lifted this clause at the end of Hedi Slimane’s contract, thus freeing Hedi Slimane from this potential constraint. Hedi Slimane is requesting that this clause be applied still, along with the effective payment of the financial compensation that goes with it.
A non-compete agreement can prevent an employee from taking a job that would put him or her in direct competition with an employer — so, in Slimane's case, joining another luxury brand as creative director — for a specified duration of time. It sounds like, at some point, Slimane and Kering struck up a deal wherein he sacrificed some amount of compensation in order to have his non-compete lifted.
Now, presumably, he does not plan to join a competing company anytime soon and wants his non-compete, and the money that comes with it, back. Kering still holds Slimane in a positive light though, writing in its statement that: "This disagreement does not alter the Group's recognition for Hedi Slimane's contribution, who, together with the Yves Saint Laurent team, has reformed the Maison, during his 4-year tenure as Creative and Image Director of Saint Laurent."
Slimane has been rumored to be replacing Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel; otherwise, his current pursuits are generally unknown.
On Kering's part, it's not the first time the company entered a legal battle with a former employee: One of its brands, Balenciaga, sued Nicolas Ghesquiere in 2013 over negative comments he made about the company in an interview following his departure.
We'll be following this case and report back on any updates.
Update, 6/29: Slimane might get his way. A French court has ordered Kering to pay the former Saint Laurent designer $13 million, WWD confirmed with Slimane's lawyers. According to one of said lawyers, that is the amount that was written into Slimane's original contract. Kering tells the trade that it plans to appeal the decision and that legal proceedings are ongoing.