Few careers have been so closely monitored, or as widely discussed in recent years, as Hedi Slimane’s. Earlier in 2018, it was announced he will be joining Céline as artistic, creative and image director from February 1, and will expand the LVMH-owned label’s offering into menswear, couture and fragrance.
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 and Slimane announced in a joint statement that the designer would not be renewing his contract with Saint Laurent.