Creative Director at Saint Laurent Paris Hedi Slimane is seen in Paris, France. Photo: Getty Images
The fashion world was thrilled when Hedi Slimane was appointed Creative Director of Saint Laurent in 2012. Slimane, already revered for the menswear he designed for Dior until 2007, was both a risky and perfect choice for the job. Though he’d never led a women’s wear brand, women had gone to great lengths to wear his clothes, often buying his Dior Homme tuxedoes for themselves.
Slimane’s first collection received mixed reviews; he presented a punk rock collection of plaid baby doll dresses and wide-brimmed hats, paying homage to the rock stars of the ’70s and the grunge girls of the ’90s (many of whom sat in his front row). But in the past three years he’s earned fashion’s love—and the public’s dollars. On Tuesday, Kering (which owns Saint Laurent, as well as Gucci and Balenciaga) announced that although its own profits have dipped, Saint Laurent’s have doubled in the three years since hiring Slimane. In 2014 alone, sales rose 27 percent, to almost $800 million.
So how has Slimane upped the ante? By making things easy. Saint Laurent’s permanent collection offers everything a woman needs in her wardrobe: a black tuxedo, a chic leather jacket, the one bag that can go from work to play. There are three heights of the only black leather pumps you need, and the ideal open-toe evening heel to wear with everything in your closet (really). Stylist Erin Walsh, who dresses women like Kerry Washington and Sarah Jessica Parker, says, “I think it translates to chic in a really accessible cool way; it kind of embodies that street edge, but in a really elevated way.”
Yahoo Style’s market director, Dora Fung, pinpoints why it works so well: “Slimane hasn’t really ‘designed;’ he hasn’t deconstructed anything or remade anything,” she says. “He simply pinpointed a time when something was truly cool, whether it’s the late ’60s or the early ’80s, specific times that so many fashion people reference, and he creates collections out of those times.” She also points out that Saint Laurent answers every woman’s thrift store prayers—instead of spending hours searching for that boxy leather jacket or perfectly worn in straight leg jean, you can pop into Saint Laurent and buy it in better condition, with a more flattering silhouette.
While Slimane’s runway collection plays to a type, he stocks his stores with something for everyone. From bohemian dresses to rock-and-roll boots, with ladylike bags and accessories, he’s speaking to everyone from Amal Clooney (who just wore one of Saint Laurent’s fringed capes) to Kanye West (who name drops the designer multiple times in his most recent interview). And doesn’t everyone land somewhere in between those two? Saint Laurent’s prices might be obscene—even West says so—but as Dora so keenly notes, “It’s the one thing I can buy to elevate everything else in my closet.”