Few careers have been so closely monitored, or as widely discussed in recent years, as Hedi Slimane’s. The Frenchman began his career as an assistant in fashion marketing at Yves Saint Laurent in the 1990s, quickly rising through the ranks to become a designer, before he shot to prominence following his creative directorship of Dior Homme, and his popularisation of a skinny silhouette in menswear. In 2012, he returned to Saint Laurent to helm the brand's womenswear and menswear labels. In his four years in the position, Slimane's creative directorship divided opinion, but his LA youth culture-driven collections commanded the attention of the global fashion industry and drove stellar financial results. In April 2016, it was announced that Slimane would be exiting the storied Parisian house.
Back in 1996 Pierre Bergé installed Slimane in the position of ready-to-wear director of men's collections at Yves Saint Laurent. Slimane would later become artistic director of the line. After the ‘Black Tie’ collection for A/W 2000, which foreshadowed the advent of Slimane's skinny silhouette, Slimane chose to leave Yves Saint Laurent and declined an offer to take up the creative directorship at Jil Sander as well.
Immediately after leaving Yves Saint Laurent, Slimane moved to Berlin, where he took up a residency at the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art between 2000 and 2002. Slimane's published his first book of photography, Berlin in 2002. The selection of black and white photographs were published by Editions 7L, Karl Lagerfeld ’s publishing arm, which is an imprint of Steidl.
Slimane left the institute to accept the position of creative director of Dior Homme, where he received immediate success, changing the landscape of menswear with his adoption of a skinny silhouette. In April 2002, Slimane was the first menswear designer to receive the CFDA award for International Designer. David Bowie, whom Slimane dressed for his tours, presented the designer with the award.
Slimane left Dior to focus on photographic projects, before being appointed creative director of Yves Saint Laurent in 2012. By his request the ready-to-wear lines were rebranded as Saint Laurent, and the design studio was partially relocated to LA, a scene that has permeated Slimane’s designs for the house. Saint Laurent’s youth-culture driven collections, which are closely tied to the music scene, have proved to be extremely commercially successful. According to Sanford C. Bernstein, from 2012 to 2014, Saint Laurent revenues grew more than 20 percent each year, outperforming the overall market for luxury goods despite having a significantly smaller retail network — 142 stores — than larger houses like Louis Vuitton or Gucci.
In April 2016, Kering and Slimane announced in a joint statement that the designer would not be renewing his contract with Saint Laurent. Slimane's next move is yet to be announced.