A Wake-Up Call for YSL’s PR Team

Source: Dandy Diary

PARIS, France — A few weeks ago, Yves Saint Laurent’s PR team wrote to BoF, asking that we edit a tweet.

We had shared one of the striking new Saint Laurent campaign images with our followers, referring to the campaign as ‘Saint Laurent Paris.’ Brands often write to thank us for sharing their advertising campaigns with our community, but this was the first time that a brand had written asking us to rewrite a tweet.

What was the problem?

“Paris is only used in the logo and not for the RTW name, that being just ‘Saint Laurent,’” the PR wrote, referring to a number of changes to brand communications implemented by Hedi Slimane when he took the creative reins at the house. As many in the PR and communications world know, however, tweets are not editable. They are also usually consumed within the first hours, if not minutes, of having been published and are soon buried under the hundreds of others that come in their wake. But not wanting to get into a debate, we simply deleted the tweet and edited a corresponding Tumblr post displaying the campaign image in question.

Then, last week, Saint Laurent’s press office sent out a mass email instructing media on the nomenclature we should use when referring to the brand. “The House is referred to as ‘Yves Saint Laurent.’ The ready-to-wear collection by Hedi Slimane is correctly referred to as ‘Saint Laurent’. (‘Saint Laurent Paris’ is used in the logo but not when spoken/written about the collection). Collection credits, should you photograph any items, is [sic] correctly written ‘Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane.’”

Another mass email soon followed, saying that the previous email was “not for official use or for lifting quotes.”

Oops.

It was the latest in a series of bizarre communications from a PR team whose attempts to control communication about YSL — whether coming directly from the brand itself or independent media outlets — seems obsessive. In today’s media reality, where words and images can be shared and commented on by millions of end users on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, seeking this kind of control is not only doomed to failure, but it is also misguided.

When YSL introduced a new logo for the house, designed by Mr Slimane, on the brand’s Facebook page earlier this summer, minus any explanatory context, they had apparently not considered how their fanbase might react. Instead of adulation and adoration, thousands of YSL’s Facebook fans led a sizable backlash, partially because there was misunderstanding around how the new branding would actually be used.

A few weeks earlier, we thought it would be constructive to set the record straight. So, in an extensive feature on YSL’s new ‘retrobranding,’ BoF took care to explain the details and thinking behind the moves, collecting background information from YSL in order to understand their rationale and speaking with branding experts to gauge their reaction. The piece was widely picked up by other media and credited with helping to clarify YSL’s new branding strategy. But still, shortly after publication, we received yet another email from the company, this time from YSL’s New York press office, asking us to revise our piece without specifying what they thought was incorrect. A follow up email from our team asking for clarification was met with silence.

You see, BoF has always aimed to provide a factual, balanced and analytical perspective and when we make mistakes, we strive to correct them. Indeed, we take this very seriously. So, I must confess my surprise when I was informed by the House of Saint Laurent that I would not be invited to Hedi Slimane’s debut show for the brand because they were unhappy with the “tone of voice” that we have used when writing about YSL.

Upon further investigation, it seems they took issue with the content of some of our pieces.

Specifically, they did not agree with our columnist Colin McDowell’s conclusion that while Slimane’s work at Dior Homme was massively influential and built a huge cult following, “it didn’t always translate into convincing sales.” When we explained our thinking, namely that no designer can claim that every single collection is a commercial success, and politely declined to change the article, we were informed via email: “Don’t correct, fare [sic] enough, we won’t collaborate on any kind of project in the future.”

More recently, the brand took issue with a piece we published, mentioning that some in the industry (including highly regarded New York Times critic Cathy Horyn) credit Raf Simons with pioneering the skinny silhouette in menswear, “though it was undoubtedly Slimane’s reign at Dior Homme that made it a commercial success, bringing it into the fashion mainstream.”

In all my years editing BoF, I have never encountered this kind of ultimatum from a fashion brand threatening non-cooperation. Indeed, every single time BoF has written about YSL (or Saint Laurent, or Saint Laurent Paris) we have received some kind of request to change the article to comply with what seem like the whims of the brand’s PR team, who appear to think that the media exists solely to serve as their mouthpiece.

Perhaps I should have been honoured that — along with Ms. Horyn, a writer who always calls it like she sees it and whom I greatly respect, even if I do not always agree with her — I was not invited to this season’s YSL show. But when a friend offered me a spare standing ticket to attend at the last minute, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see Hedi Slimane’s debut for myself and I decided to go.

Despite all of the hype and anticipation, it was clear from the first few looks that the collection wasn’t going to change the future of women’s fashion, as Slimane had done for menswear during his tenure at Dior Homme. Everything I saw was true to the codes of the house and very 1970’s YSL — undoubtedly desirable for those in the market for a French rocker chick vibe. But perhaps, the somewhat muted applause and hushed voices after the show were the most telling.

I’m still not sure if attending the show was the right decision. Part of me thinks I should have just stayed away, but as my peer Lisa Armstrong wrote in her review in the Telegraph, “Judging by [Slimane’s] apparent fear of any kind of objective criticism, however, I fear I won’t be allowed back.”

Ultimately, this kind of behaviour is not only arrogant, it also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how winning brands are built in today’s world. Successful brands aren’t defined by a set of rules conceived in the control tower of a company’s headquarters and broadcast to the world. They are ideas that live in conversation with the world. They can’t be dictated. They must be nurtured.

It’s a serious wake-up call for a PR team that is clearly living in the pre-digital age.

Imran Amed is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion

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82 comments

  1. Well written story Imran- and I agree about the collection, it was too heavy, literal, too much styling and too little design. And you were right about Raf Simons being the first to bring the narrow silhouette back to menswear- it’s not who makes the most sales (easy enough with Dior backing you- so that’s now also good for Mr Simons) but who creates the designs in the first place. Keep up the good work!

  2. The more I hear of Hedi Slimane, the more I dislike him — and what his stint at YSL/Saint Laurent Paris/whatever to be a glorious failure. Evth about him leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Zina Tasreen from Bangladesh
  3. please get a life

    gosh from Limbiate, Lombardy, Italy
  4. Truer words were never spoken! Their whole attitude is so ridiculous it’s making me cringe. Looks like we got another little Napoleon, such a pity.

    Imola from Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
  5. *want

    Zina Tasreen from Bangladesh
  6. Thank you for writing this Imran. Well done. From the Indian industry perspective, I can tell you that such demands from PR companies are common. While it reflects the thoughtlessness or indiecision of their clients, it also indicates how PR is leaning more & more toward pleasing the client rather than calling them out & helping the brand. Your piece here demoralized me further as I thought it inconceivable for such a thing to happen anywhere else but the unprofessional confines of the Indian industry. Sad. We need more like you.

  7. Excellent story Imran. I work in financial journalism in London for a major news organization and it always strikes me to the see the level of arrogance that some PR teams employ to “communicate” with the media. From a journalist’s point of view, BOF stories are intelligently written, well-researched, and of excellent quality. Hopefully someone from YSL’s PR reads this and wakes up. Keep up the great work and I am so glad you wrote this.

    Sarka from London, London, United Kingdom
  8. Ooh this is a tough one. It’s been my experience, that this often happens with many brands, not just YSL or Saint Laurent or Saint Laurent Paris… PRs correct bloggers all the time about messaging, about new tag lines, stories, etc. Unless it’s a correction, like an error, I often stick to my guns and refuse to delete.

    That said, it’s the job of the brand to make sure we understand the messaging, and to make us *want* to adopt new branding. Nothing leaves a bad taste in a publisher’s mouth like a confusing, yet persnickety PR push.

  9. YES. Wake up. It’s 2012.
    This fear of the objective truth is just embarrassing. (as is Hedi’s collection)

    I from Nieuwegein, Utrecht, Netherlands
  10. I completely agree, Imran- what a well-written article. His collection was completely stuck in the past, nostalgia in overdrive- alive & walking. The same goes for his brand strategy + PR team.

    Vivi from London, London, United Kingdom
  11. It is endlessly disappointing to see how Saint Laurent (?) and Hedi Slimane are acting up. Reading this article and judging by Slimane’s latest twitter rant on Cathy Horyn, one can’t help but wonder why they need all these excuses, attacks, name changes, etc and can’t just deliver a good collection.

    It is not just unprofessional but straight up embarrassing to ‘call out’ people like Horyn and Amed, who deliver reasonable but opinionated fashion reports, because they don’t play by the penny-pinching rules the Saint Laurent PR team tries to dictate.

    Rather than trying to exclude them from the conversation, Slimane and his team have to impress their biggest critics. I’m sure Horyn & co. would prefer a good collection to all of this nonsense kindergarten drama.

    Dom from London, London, United Kingdom
  12. looks like mr Slimane can’t handle the pressure. this is all tragic — and his today tweet makes the whole thing even more catastrophic. mayans predicted apocalypse for 2012: hedi, take notice.

    marushka from Massy, Île-de-France, France
  13. The first email from them should have said something like “Thanks for the mention, glad you like the campaign. Just one small thing – next time you write about us could you use XYZ instead of YZX because my boss gets a bit touchy about it, thanks!”

    Jesus Christ, it’s only fucking fashion PR, not removing cancer cells.

  14. Someone should tell this to Style.com, their writers (even if I’m a huge Tim Blanks fan) are becoming way too complimentary.

    I think fashion PR is a cycle business, and some of them get too caught up in it. I’ve never liked anyone in fashion PR, they’re all a bunch of power-hungry twats.

  15. Agreed. Some brands & their PR dept’s need to understand they cannot act in that dictatorial manner anymore. With the immediacy of media these days, one can’t erase or edit things once it’s gone viral – whether positive or negative. And the quasi-bullying? So outmoded…

  16. Great article! Agree with you 100%. Hedi Slimane has lost touch with reality. The rebranding, the mens collection, the womens collection, the advertisements. It all feels like a step backwards for YSL. Pilati was moving things forward. Subtlety but surely. Everything under his creative direction was chic and modern, which is more than I can say for Slimane.

  17. can I Like this a hundred times?

    camila from São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  18. Thanks Imran for the insightful and revealing article. Kudos.

    B_T from New York, NY, United States
  19. I’m a big fan of Hedi, but you are totally right Imran! Good on you. Designers/luxury houses/big businesses should not try to muzzle journalists. If they are so confident on their vision, why not allow the public to view and critique their work?

    Jati Hidayat from Jakarta, Jakarta Raya, Indonesia
  20. This is just why I don’t support “dead” designer(brand) Yve Sait-Laurent is dead, DIOR is dead, Chanel is dead and unfortunately McQueen is gone too soon(also dead ='( )… Like Lagerfeld is not enough weight on his own or Raf Simons, or Slimane, or… Do you see Picasso, Dali, Warholl still producing? No, because they’re dead.
    Long live Westwood, Jean-Paul Gaulthier, Rick Owen, Damir Doma and the rest.

    Bisoune Pitoune from Montreal, QC, Canada
  21. What an excellent article. Bravo to Imran and BoF for not bowing down to the spin monster of fashion PR and retaining a sense of objectivity, detail and respect with this article. In fact, all the articles on this site maintain these qualities. Such journalistic integrity is incredibly appreciated in an industry that is so heavily dictated by PR.

  22. Well writing article, as always. But frankly I’m glad for any controversy, exploding egos, bare knuckle brawls or anything out of the ordinary in fashion, because the obsessively manicured PR strategies and their unhealthy relationships and tie-ins with (all) media outlets is making fashion horribly boring and predictable (not to say SL wasn’t that…)
    To quote T. Moore:
    “Chaos is the future
    And beyond it is freedom
    Confusion is next and next after that is the truth
    You gotta cultivate what you need to need”

    Lazmex from Chicago, IL, United States
  23. BRAVO for speaking your mind and telling it how it is! Great article!

    Dessy from United Kingdom
  24. I am seriously disappointed with Hedi Slimane – I had the impression he is too proud to be a designer and it turns out that he truly is.
    It makes me puke, screw all the brands and tell whatever you feel is right for you – not for the sake of some stupid debut show that channeled Los Angeles street style and Rachel Zoe.
    I love Cathy Horyn, she is the only journalist out there who sees the fashion shows objectively, rather than all sparkly and beautifully. Journalists are to be objective, with no regards to what the f%*@#$ PR team of a label wants or not.

    Dimitar Mangalski from Sofia, Oblast Sofiya-Grad, Bulgaria
  25. Bravo for not bending over and holding your ankles for these arrogant twats. You need to send them a clear note of BOF “policy” which states you will not be dictated to . Period. Anyway, Laurent (or whatever the company now calls itself), didn’t help itself by insisting Slimane follow the “codes” and create a nostalgia/replica collection. The idea that YSL would be creating the same thing he did more than 35 years ago is preposterous.

    David Royce from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, United Kingdom
  26. Fascinating article and insight into designer fashion PR. I was extremely surprised when YSL (let’s face it, it will always be YSL) announced it’s name change following the recruitment of Slimane; it seemed hugely self indulgent for one person to want to change the core identity of such an iconic brand, just to mark his arrival.

    As soon as you need to send out even one email – let alone several – to explain something as simple as what the brand is called, you know you’re in trouble. Branding at its worst, absolute madness.

  27. Actually finding the increasingly desperate attempts of the YSL PRs to reverse the clock quite funny. It’s as though they’re giving the rest of the PR world the book on ‘how not to…’

    I come across PRs trying to manipulate or control all the time and these days, it just isn’t possible. All this makes me want to do is write about the brand and use the titles incorrectly just because I can.

    In the end, writers will just get so fed up of games that they no longer really care what Hedi has to bring to the fashion table. The world wouldn’t end if YSL was not reported on at all.

  28. They ask to edit a tweet, it seems clear to me they have some problems also in hiring…

    Erika from Milan, Lombardy, Italy
  29. Great article, Imran! For YSL, I think the changes of brand name decisions on RTW, brand logo or just the brand is so confusing for all the customers in any level.
    Also it’s digital era for all the luxury brands, YSL’s attitude is not right, the way they rejected further cooperation just because they can’t accept the honest opinion from journalist is just so wrong!!

    How can they actually rebuild its customers confidence is what they should really spend time on it right now!

    Sienna L from Cergy, Île-de-France, France
  30. I work in a small PR agency with a number of fashion clients. When a fashion journalist tweeted his thanks to us, the PR company BEFORE the brand for helping him out I had to listen to a 10 minute rant on why he should have tweeted his thanks to the client first and was asked to go back to said journalist to get them to alter the tweet – which I refused to do. The problem is you are dealing with people who don’t understand the etiquette and nuances of social media. Am going to use this YSL as a case study going forward – so there has been some benefit to all of this!!!

    joe from Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
  31. Y O Y YSL? This sort of brand PR-controlling-the-media-behaviour is not going to make YSL any friends this season… wake up call indeed! Off to look at the new Dior collection now :)

  32. Hedi is just a spoiled kid like the rock stars he worships. This whole episode is so shameful… I’m so disappointed at YSL/Saint Laurent/Saint Laurent Paris… The PR team should begin to rethink their strategies and learn to write English. I keep remembering that Tom Ford parted ways with PPR because of his overpowering. Compared to that, what can we say??? The future is not bright to the brand…

    Mirela.Lacerda from Rio De Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  33. I can tell you from experience, this happens quite a lot, especially while blogging. I think it’s quite brave of you to point this out, since it isn’t just Saint Laurent, but an industry wide happening.

  34. I really liked Slimane’s collection but the behaviour of his PR team and his antics are (understandably) wearing thin on a lot of people.

    Excellent article, thank you Imran.

    Josh from New York, NY, United States
  35. “Someone should tell this to Style.com, their writers (even if I’m a huge Tim Blanks fan) are becoming way too complimentary.”

    Fashion journalism is becoming an oxymoron.
    And what I mean by journalism is asking tough questions, rigorous reporting, having professional editors go over your work, and not letting PR flacks have quote approval.
    Unfortunately, these practices are becoming increasingly scarce in journalism at large, but it’s especially bad in fashion coverage. But what do you expect when you have editors who are paid to consult and style for various labels, or in the case of Anna Wintour, selecting which designers get hired by companies? Professional impartiality is a mirage given these sorts of industry-wide shenanigans.
    Bloggers are no different. Once hailed as outside voices, they’ve now fallen under a similar spell of free swag and glitzy parties to keep them placated.
    Pieces like Mr. Amed’s op-ed provide some hope that smart, conscientious fashion journalism can still be resonant in this cluttered marketplace where shilling reigns and intelligent criticism gets relegated to the back burner in a field that is too quick to celebrate itself.

    Cbermud1 from Port Tobacco, MD, United States
  36. wow. what a nightmare this re-brand is becoming.

    as for the collection..couldn’t dream of better words to describe it. brilliantly written article.

  37. It’s happening to fast to be serious
    Another interpetation to understand this YSL episode
    This confusion in YSL name policy ( RTW with or without Paris) migth be direct consequence of YSL decision to move the studio to LA.
    Trademarks especially in France are wery weak if they introduce deceit in consumer’s mind and Paris city has a strong defense policy to protect its name and trademark.
    Using geographical name like Paris induce for YSL company to be located in Paris which is not the case anymore for creation.
    Creative and PR people are powerful in fashion companies but often taking decisions with precipitation without proper advises. When laywers or inhouse lawyers join the dance evebody is back-pedaling….
    Keep also in mind that in France many people consider that Heidi Slimane’s decision to create in LA was dictated by brandnew french tax income with 75%rate (up to 1 million euros income)!!
    This is what we call “une réaction en chaine”
    Laurie TURIN AVRIL Lawyer in Paris and former responsible of legal department of Paris haute couture company

    Laurie Turin Avril from Ris-orangis, Île-de-France, France
  38. One of the best articles so far.

    Thank you for sharing this Imran.

    checho_83 from Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  39. I honestly believe there has been a confusion with the house “aim” to rebrand. As much I appreciated the pieces in the “collection”, I did not catch a theme or really understood when there was a transition. I listened to the showstudio panel while at work and I enjoyed that they too where trying to figure out what was going on as the show was being presented by nowfashion. I appreciate your journalistic facts and exposure.

  40. Imran, thank you for this posting. I fear that the house of YSL is over and HS clearly is not up to the task talent-wise. men’s apparel is not nearly as challenging as women’s and he seems to have thin skin and lacks personal charm & finesse. Who will be the next in line as the corporate suits will start messing around. When did PR people, corporate bean counters & stylists get to decide about high fashion? Just because this is happening all over does not make it right nor will they get the $ results they seek They are not the great designers who drive the businesses with their talent & brilliant imaginations. Sadly YSL is over. When YSL left this world I cried. Who will care when HS is replaced?

    Sandra Garratt from Banning, CA, United States
  41. Imran,

    I had been following YSL’s seemingly counter-intuitive PR maneuvers for quite some time, your thoughts on the issue are very poingant.

    Even more so, though, is the following statement:
    “Successful brands aren’t defined by a set of rules conceived in the control tower of a company’s headquarters… They are ideas that live in conversation with the world. They can’t be dictated. They must be nurtured.”

    When we look at today’s “winning” brands, this is precisely what we see. Christopher Bailey at Burberry, Stella McCartney, Narciso Rodriguez et all, what we see these individuals doing is engaging with their customers on a personal level, rather than merely handing down a fashion prescription.

    The industry, now more than ever, is in dire need of some objective criticism. Thanks for the great article,

    Emily.

    Emily from Vancouver, BC, Canada
  42. Hedi trivialized the YSL brand that once stood for the epitome of parisianne chic, and elegance. It was a bad 70’s YSL collection that looked hideously dated. I don’t know if it has more to do with the climate today in fashion when designers are under so much pressure from corporate headquarters that don’t encourage risk; but only looking for profits; or just cowardice on his part for not challenging himself. The fact is if you don’t brown nose you dont get favors or could be out of a job today. I am a fashion writer for the Examiner; I would never be able to get a job at Style.com or anywhere else because I am not a sycophant. This is the political climate everywhere. People dont want to hear the truth.

  43. Wonderful article, and more power to you for being so bold in explaining this to the masses. Sounds to me like there’s an internal problem – which in turn, is being projected externally. Louise – Sydney, Australia x

  44. So lovely to read such a refreshingly honest and candid article!

    The PR and marketing team should have known that it takes time for a rebrand to sink in to our collective consciousness.

    Trying to suddenly mind shift and distort the world into ‘correctly’ referencing the brand is blind stupidity.

    It’s a trap that brand teams repeatedly make. They would have been better to have gently seeded the rebrand and won over people across an extended period of time – rather than dictatorially issuing snap commands about what people can think and write about it.

    Critics and customers now have as much right to comment on what is right/wrong for the brand as the brand owners themselves.

    It’s simply farcical that this edict has degenerated into such a public spat. Now everyone is watching them. Absolutely hopeless.

  45. So much damage done in such and economy. The question is how long can he (Mr. Slimane) last now. Pity. Last year’s show was so spectacular. It seems they chose the wrong Creative Director. Let’s see what Mr. Arnault does now. After what he did to Galliano, it makes me cringe to think..

  46. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of experience with top-end fashion PR’s, so i’m aware of just how hard work they can be.

    However – surely BoF should research and double check their copy to ensure accuracy? How the new brand is being labelled may be pernickety – but it is not part of a writer’s job to ensure that all the copy they produce is accurate and correct to the best of their knowledge?

    I also personally LOVED Hedi’s Spring 13 collection, and think if he hadn’t stayed true to some of the YSL codes – he would have been slated for that too. 70’s rock-chick boho vibes are cool, and so is he.

    Francine from Stoke-on-trent, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
  47. Thank you for writing this article. I’m glad you went to the see the collection. Besides you would have been seated in the bathroom anyway. So the standing ticket was a treat even a defiant gesture I’d say. He showed a collection that did little to support his arrogance, in truth it made it worst.
    I’m a huge fan of the brand and its history as many people are but Slimane’s insecurity is making it hard to like the brand. It’s pointless to even express how I feel about him as a person because that is not the point at the moment. Anyway!
    For most people who are not part of the fashion world, Slimane’s nonsense means nothing. At the end of the day what will matter is how good one looks in the clothes providing they fit in them. And that I hope he can provide notwithstanding his insanity.
    It is quite démodé to be such an ass in fashion it think. All this arrogance is quite passé and honestly boring. One has to explain to me why it makes sense for some to be that way. The level of insecurity in this milieu is simply surreal. One wonders, with such arrogance and minutia on details that do absolutely nothing for the brand, if he really has the creative backbone to be at the helm of Yves Saint Laurent – I did that on purpose by the way, I hope they come after me.

  48. Great article! I have always like BOF for fashion insides and straight forward, honest comment and criticism. In fashion where everything has been so commercialized by PR it is harder to find sources who gives information based on true story.
    This is a very sad story coming from YSL, I have always liked the brand and always be their devoted customer. However, by knowing that the creative director has this kind of attitude does convince me for a second thought now, if I want to buy the brand that has ‘this kind’ of message.

    Bee from Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
  49. What a humourously well-written article. I’m coming to you from a French fashion house in Paris and us girls are giggling over this (more like cackling)! We’ve never heard of a PR team with SO MUCH time on their hands!

    We’re so sorry that BoF had to go through all of this, but at least it makes for a funny piece, especially for us fashion folk who get how finicky the houses can get.

    You have a new reader now!

  50. It amazes me again and again how a lot of companies, in this day and age, still don’t get how the world has changed.

    And there is a certain kind of blinding self-centeredness amongst that leads to very rude behaviour.

    Even if I can, to some extent, get that those that run their own small companies might be prone to mix personal with business, I can’t get it or excuse in big companies with millions going towards PR.

  51. love this article and totally agree, the whole controlling the branding thing is so obsessive. Personally the whole thing is confusing, so many different names for one fashion house…

  52. THIS ARTICLE MAKES ME SMILE! It feels so good to see that I’m not the only one feeling that Slimane is totally out of his mind. His collection was depressing. Nothing innovative. I CAN’T WAIT for the return of Yves Saint Laurent.

  53. The whole Hedi Slimane for YSL decision seemed like a good idea at first – but the more I’ve seen and read, the more I’m puzzled by it.

    How can Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane be representative of the overall YSL brand and heritage when the designer is based in LA? Seems that to adequately get in touch with the energy and spirit of the brand, one needs to live and breath that environment during the creation. True, YSL himself designed from abroad a portion of the time – but after he’d established the brand. Perhaps Slimane is getting ahead of himself.

    Also – how does a major fashion house end up with such a failure to launch on a re-branding? Didn’t they pay attention to what happened when the Gap tried to change their logo? Perhaps looking for lessons-learned more broadly (mass market CAN teach high-fashion valuable lessons) and hiring a PR that can project manage a launch from start to finish (professionally, one could add) would be advisable for the next time they attempt a re-brand.

  54. Thank you, Imran, for giving a platform for a real conversation. You are absolutely right, in the era of digital and social media, a brand can not be successful if it is defined by strict rules set by the company’s HQ. The conversation now is much more global than that.

  55. This is a great piece that outlines just what happens when branding goes haywire–if the journalists, who let’s face it designers depend on (as this is where consumers get their information from), can’t even get the names of the brand straight there’s a serious problem. But the fact that the PR team doesn’t even seem to recognise this is worrying. Even more worrying is the fact that they are wholly unwilling to be helpful. In today’s world, businesses need to drop the “holier than thou” attitude so that they don’t alienate their base (consumers and journalists alike)

    ggouraige from Miami, FL, United States
  56. Imran, I feel you. Heavy handed, indeed. YSL’s PR should be canned, and the BOF team; should be at the top of the list to replace them.

  57. Bravo Imran! I agree with you on this, if a brand is as solid as YSL, any constructive and truthful critiques should be acceptable. Their PR team seriously need to adjust their ego and as for Hedi’s collection, true, is not amazing by any standard (quite disappointing in my opinion) but I do want to see if he will show any signs of improvement for the collections to come!

    Tina M from Vancouver, BC, Canada
  58. Slimane is quite self aggrandizing and always has been. Personal experience tells me he has quite a few issues and the longer they linger the more chance he has of being ridiculed in the press and his collections will suffer. Just as designers and their PR’s have pull so do critics and fans. Something that has always bothered me is Horyn and Menkes fawning over Marc Jacobs and Lagerfeld when I can guarantee you they would have been highly critical of the collections they churn out had they not had the powerhouses they have behind them. This one part of the loathesome things Slimane has said resonate with me. I have always felt Horyn and Menkes have a vested interest in giving Jacobs and Lagerfeld/Chanel positive reviews almost always and while I respect both women I think they along with Blanks as well act as PR people rather than critics. Also I would like to say I am so happy to have discovered this site and you Imran Amed, its a brilliant site and I am so happy to be a part of it.

    Daoudmac from Los Angeles, CA, United States
  59. Thanks Imran for a thought out enjoyable blog post on the dangers of evaluating and responding to ‘crisis’ (or a non-crisis) in communication over brand image when the product should speak for itself – facts, stats, sales, public opinion and other third parties.

    A PR fail that could’ve been handled differently. The media should always be seen as a vehicle to persuade and engage, not turn off!

    PS. “French rocker chick vibe” – careful, you might get another threatening email! lol

    Luma B from Bahrain
  60. I feel utterly sorry for the interns at YSL’s PR dept whot communicated with your interns.

    Darren f. from Buxtehude, Lower Saxony, Germany
  61. Amazing article!!!!!

    Absolutely my opinion and based on facts!

    I think YSL has a huge problem in the future if the keep going this way.

    Dejan Poletan from Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  62. Great article, Imran. What PR departments often underestimate is how word of mouth travels within the industry. Your piece has just been shared with fashion writers and industry people in Tokyo and will leave an impression.

    maverick0b723 from Riedlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  63. thanks for being brave to highlight ridiculousness of “fashion wrath” – sadly this is just the tip of the iceberg! I wish there were more of you in the industry to keep the prima donnas on their toes! amazingly well written well done!

  64. “Successful brands aren’t defined by a set of rules conceived in the control tower of a company’s headquarters and broadcast to the world. They are ideas that live in conversation with the world. They can’t be dictated. They must be nurtured.”

    Well. Effing. SAID. #quoteporn

  65. wow – how rare to read this kind of informed essay on fashion? I wish there were more sources for critical discourse on the industry

    Raudo from Verona, Veneto, Italy
  66. What can be cemented in fact from this article is that YSL’s pr team does not know how to handle this situation they have found themselves in, and the damage that has been done might be very hard to repair. Non-response emails from the house speaks volumes! But in the end the parent company PPR might have saved it’s self in the Wang/Balenciaga union. My crystal ball tells me there will be major ad campains which will deflect the attention away from YSL “which is needed”. But if this upcoming season for YSL proves lacking we might see this house go the way of a Blass or Halston. A revolving door of designers trying to revive an already dead fashion house.

    thefashiontribune from New York, NY, United States
  67. Imran, did you Raf Simon’s interview in Vogue UK January 2013?
    In there he said he would focus more on the collections, including accessories, in being the new creative head at Dior and would not start the effort with an attention over the logo and how the store would look.
    We all know whom he was referring to of course!

    Jati Hidayat from Indonesia
  68. Superbly written article. I really enjoyed the first part of it and admire your resolve in not only refusing to accommodate the antics of YSL’s PR team but in putting yours’ and your site’s relationship with the brand at risk, with this article itself. However, I think the value of your subsequent commentary of the brand’s new collection was diminished based on the fact of it being included in the same article, right after you expressed your dissatisfaction with their PR team’s behavior. One can’t help but draw a connection between the two and it makes your opinion seem biased. A separate note on your thoughts on the collection would have improved the worth of both your exposure of the PR team’s mindset as well as your appraisal of the collection. Just a thought.

    Div from Somerville, MA, United States
  69. I bow to the piece as a PR. As a style lover, I owe great respect to Yves Saint Laurent and his enduring work. Although I got quite impressed by Dior Homme’s designs by Slimane, I cannot tell the same about his succession to Pilati at YSL.
    When I read your piece, I guess Mr Slimane does not desire to deal with fashion (fashion, not style so far at least) any longer, and is trying to erase the timeless aura of the founder, one faux pas after the other.
    As per the tons of adv pages in art magazines (both locally and cross-country, all of them in premium positions) and considering his previous passion for photography, I have the feeling Mr Slimane is willing to reposition his work (or his photos) as ART: not a new issue, and an unconfortable one. A few point here:
    – fashion is lifestyle: one might read about fashion, as well as art, so why trying to impress the reader via the art channel? I guess the art collector target has either his/her own taste, might get bored by the ad, or hires a stylist so won’t care about the publicity
    – aggressive media plans are annoying to both readers, and buyers
    – making noise about such a branding policy is insane, especially after erasing both Christian, and Yves names
    – even the best fashion piece is not art, unless we’re talking about Dalì-Schiaparelli duo, and still to my personal knowledge the artist was Dalì

    CMD from Dubino, Lombardy, Italy
  70. Amazing article Imran…i just read and its increidble how much power PR companies are having. But thanks to you and many others how are not afraid to speak the truth, this (fashion)world would still have a little hope.

    Antonio from Lima, Lima, Peru
  71. Bravo Bravo! I was beginning to feel as if I were the last one to appreciate the iconic designs and the mastery of fabric and designs by the late Yves Saint Laurent. At least your and Cathy’s articles which I would consider constructive criticism were published! Mine so far has not made it past some with self interest in supporting the parent company or the upstart and untalented Heidi. I did survive Paris Fashion Week without attending the Show but I shall share with you that around Paris, at every press breakfast or briefing which I attending, the disastrous attempt at re-branding and the awful outdated grunge of Heidi’s show came up as a topic of conversation. There was not one of us who applauded the name change nor what Heidi seems to think he has accomplished by perusing the Yves Saint Laurent archives.

    I had the honour and the pleasure of working for Mr. Saint Laurent in the 1970s and remember how carefully we all contributed to building the brand. If Heidi thinks that dropping the Yves and placing the new name as “Saint Laurent by Heidi Slimane somehow automatically makes him the equivalent of the design genius of Yves Saint Laurent he is WRONG! And from the first two seasons of shows he will never hold a candle to the design and brilliance of the late Yves. Moreover, every first year business school student swears by the concepts of “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” and more importantly, DON’T DAMAGE THE BRAND! Maybe PPP and Heidi need to take a few courses in marketing. And maybe someone should explain to the customer why the handbags, wallets and belts all still have the classic “Y” in their designs? And why the cosmetics and perfumes have kept the full name of Yves Saint Laurent? Many of us can only hope that Heidi’s stay at the helm is extremely shortlived and the full name is returned to this iconic brand!

    Sara from Brighton, Brighton and Hove, United Kingdom
  72. Why is the Fashion jury still out on Slimane? The renaming to ‘Saint Laurent’ is parfait to a PR strategist’s ears as well as his dazzling eclecticism. Cathy Horyn, banned from the shows, was tentative in her report, for the New York Times. Viewed from streamed images, her words lack the acerbic tone of a disappointed critic. I think she really liked it, but isn’t saying! You wouldn’t either, if you weren’t invited, would you?

    Jayne Sheridan from Bradford, Bradford, United Kingdom
  73. I DONT LIKE THE NEW LINE AND BUSINESS MUST HAVE TAKEN A DOWN FALL. I HAVE A CREDIT FOR YSL AND IM SO DISAPPOINTED IN THE RETAIL PICKS THAT I WANT MY MONEY BACK. PLEASE CHANGE THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THIS HUGE MISTAKE.

    GIZELLE from New York, NY, United States
  74. I couldn’t say this better. I don’t know about everyone else but I speak for the urban community when I say Mr.Hedi Slimane Designs sucks lol…. You couldnt say that but I can and will!!! They have consumers very confused …(me for one )having spent a dollar in YSL/Saint Laurent Since the change. What he don’t realize is if he doesn’t change back the logo and go back to what we all cherish and adore there will be no more YSL/St. Laurent .Right now Christian Loubaton& Hermes Is slaughtering them….Do you know they do not even have belts for man with the logo on them anymore?No more T-shirts ,no more sneakers with the logos on them, this is what makes them I thought but now it makes me sad …Gucci , Louis Vuitton In Fendi will never do that and will never let the consumers down.I’m praying that they change their decision because I really like their clothes and I have clothes from YSL that’s very vintage

    Kemani from Torrance, CA, United States
  75. It saddens me all this ordeal with Hedi Slimane. I have been a huge fan of his for a long time. And as a photographer, I love the work he was doing lately. I was thrilled when I learned that he was to return to fashion, but with all this pettiness, I have begun to lose my respect for him. Bravo Imran Amed for calling it like it is, with class and charm. Shame on you PPR! oops or should I say Kering before get an email telling me to change my comment?

    Silvia from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
  76. Interesting article, but one quibble: you seem to think that it is, in fact, the YSL PR team calling the shots. After 25 years in the corporate PR field, I can guarantee you that it does not. They take their marching orders from the higher-ups (Slimane himself or his minions) and are forced to issue these ridiculous statements because a petty, over-indulged artiste cannot handle the fact that not everyone thinks he walks on water. PR folks are the butt of a lot of jokes, sometimes rightfully so, but no actual PR professional would choose to communicate in this vein. Take it from me, this ridiculousness comes straight from the top.

    Shannon from Houston, TX, United States