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BoF Exclusive | How Hedi Slimane Presaged Fashion's Instagram Obsession

BoF brings you an exclusive excerpt from a conversation with Hedi Slimane on his digital photographic Diary and decision to spend more time in New York, courtesy of Document Journal.
Photo: Hedi Slimane courtesy of Document Journal
By
  • Alex Needham

NEW YORK, United States — Today, of course, it's de rigueur to leave a trail of images in real time as you progress through the world, but in 2006 — pre Instagram and pre-Tumblr — it was highly unusual. Back then, high-quality photography was created for consumption in print; the digital realm was viewed with suspicion. Hedi Slimane Diary was pioneering in the way it was conceived as a purely web-based project, Slimane recognising very quickly that images could be put online almost instantly, free of space constraints and the requirements of magazine editors.

“There’s something interesting about the immediacy of the posting and the relevance of it being something of this precise moment, that it exists right away,” says Slimane over the phone from Los Angeles, his adopted hometown. When shooting for a monthly magazine, “it’s a drag that it stays in the fridge for three months… it feels very anachronistic.”

Fast-moving, exhilarating and frequently updated, the Diary was a breakthrough and liberation, which quickly inspired others to follow suit — Purple magazine and Terry Richardson for two.

The idea of just reducing it to semiotics — it could be just a still life, a fragment — that's something that also was taken up afterwards on social media, before it became selfies.

Hedi Slimane Diary was also more farsighted in the way it showed how people would come to communicate predominantly in images online, “which, funnily enough, is what social media became after,” says Slimane. “The idea of just reducing it to semiotics — it could be just a still life, a fragment — that’s something that also was taken up afterwards on social media, before it became selfies.”

Before then, an online diary had meant text — a blog — but in keeping with his minimalist aesthetics, Slimane decided to strip everything away, including captions. “I wanted it to leave more to the imagination; I didn’t want to give too many keys to it,” he says. “I felt I had to leave it almost as a rhythmic thing, where it’s very silent because the subject is always pretty chaotic.”

Instead, the photographs unite Slimane’s twin loves of high formalism and very human messiness — the tumultuous emotions unleashed by music captured and frozen in time. The Diary moves across the decade from London to Los Angeles, but the passion in the pictures doesn’t change. “We had the English period and then California. In a way they have different sensibilities, a different culture, a different time, but for me it’s still the same youth regardless.”

Maybe I'll do more things in New York. I don't see the point in me having a place there if I don't do anything with it.

“What’s fascinating in California is that you have to look for those communities. There are so many incredible subjects, far too many for the Diary, because there’s such a diversity of interests and of fashions, and there’s a sense of quirkiness that I’m interested in too — the idea of pure fantasy that you can only find in places where there’s a sense of isolation, and it creates that artistic oddness,” continues Slimane.

California has been a source of intense pleasure and inspiration for Slimane, and his home for eight years, but his eye is moving east again. He’s about to become bicoastal, moving into a new home in New York, and is looking forward to exploring the city thoroughly for the first time since the late '90s.

“I possibly really will rediscover it,” he says. “I used to spend so much time there in the late '80s and early '90s, which was such a great period in New York. I haven’t been spending enough time to really document it for decades, so maybe I’ll do more things in New York. I don’t see the point in me having a place there if I don’t do anything with it — I have to transform it into something creative. I have a little studio — a portrait studio.”

The complete text of Alex Needham’s interview with Hedi Slimane appears in Document Journal No. 8 Spring/Summer 2016, which will be on sale Friday April 29th exclusively at Dover Street New York, BookMarc New York, Iconic Magazines New York, Dover Street London, Broken Arm Paris, Colette, 0FR Paris and 10 Corso Como Milan, and available worldwide the following week. Preorder copies at documentjournal.myshopify.com

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