Few careers have been so closely monitored, or as widely discussed in recent years, as Hedi Slimane’s. The designer joined the French luxury house in February 2018, as its artistic, creative and image director, making his debut expanding the label’s offering into menswear, couture and fragrance collections, debute dat the Spring/Summer 19 Paris fashion week.
The Frenchman began his career in the 1990s as an assistant in fashion marketing at Yves Saint Laurent . 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 Autumn/Winter 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 also released his first photography book, “Berlin” — a selection of black and white photographs — published by Karl Lagerfeld ’s publishing arm, Édition 7L, which is a division of the German house Steidl.
In 2000 he took up the position of creative director for Dior Homme, during which he received immediate success and popularised the skinny silhouette in menswear. In April 2002, Slimane was the first menswear designer to receive the CFDA International Designer award. David Bowie, whom Slimane dressed for his tours, presented the designer with the award.
Slimane left Dior in 2007 to focus on photographic projects but returned to Yves Saint Laurent in 2012 as creative director, overseeing the brand’s womenswear and menswear collections. 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.
During his four years at Saint Laurent, Slimane divided opinion, but his youth culture-driven collections, which are closely tied to the music scene, proved to be 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 announced in a statement that Slimane would not be renewing his contract with Saint Laurent.
Slimane roused mixed reactions for his personal incarnation of Celine – some deifying the designer and praising his return, while others heavily reprimanded the Laurent-ification of Celine, with as Slimane imposed his signature slender style onto the French brand. Under Slimane’s watch, Céline has undergone a number of rebranding efforts: it dropped its accent aigu and “Paris” under the name inspired by its original 1960s design, and the flagship store in Miami was revamped, among other store fleet. The luxury brand also announced in late 2018, that its menswear division would soon produce standalone stores for the Spring/Summer 2019 season. One of the first glimpses into Slimane’s Céline came from Lady Gaga, who was gifted a handbag and debuted it in Paris.