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Why Would Yves Saint Laurent Erase the Hedi Slimane Era?

Designer tenures seem shorter and shorter, but Yves Saint Laurent's decision to wipe its Instagram account of Hedi Slimane's time at the house is curious on several levels.
YSL Instagram | Source: Instagram
By
  • Imran Amed

LONDON, United Kingdom — Yes, it's true. In the wake of Hedi Slimane's departure from Yves Saint Laurent and the appointment of incoming creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the brand's first bold move was to wipe the history of the Instagram account created under Mr Slimane, leaving only a black and white portrait of the new chief designer.

The Internet reacted with a mixture of giggles and outrage. Fans of Slimane — many of whom are still reeling from the news that their fashion god has exited the proverbial building — say it is disrespectful of the contributions he made to the storied French house during his four-year tenure, transforming Yves Saint Laurent from an unprofitable problem child in Kering's luxury brand portfolio to the star pupil, outperforming all of its peers. Others shrugged their shoulders, pointing out that the brand had not actively been using Instagram, and only a few posts appeared in YSL's Instagram feed.

Still, it begs the question why the brand would do this. Could it be symbolic — wiping the slate clean, making way for a new era at Yves Saint Laurent? Could it be that Vaccarello wanted to make a statement about his own arrival at the brand? Or, could Slimane have personally requested that the brand delete his imagery as he feels ownership over his work?

Well, given that Slimane's imprint is still visible everywhere else at YSL, digitally and otherwise — the company's websiteTwitter feed, Facebook page, and its more than 140 retail stores — these theories seem unlikely. And anyone who has met Vaccarello would find it hard to believe that the move was his doing, as he seems the furthest thing from an egomaniac.

So for now, the decision seems rather puzzling. To erase this defining chapter in Saint Laurent's history, on only one social channel, is absurd on several levels. It reminds me of my visit to the Gucci Museo in Florence a few years ago, during the tenure of former creative director Frida Giannini. The museum, dedicated to the more than 90-year history of the Florentine fashion and leather goods house, basically skipped the defining era of Tom Ford, when the designer single-handedly returned Gucci to its former glory and created the anchor for what is now the Kering luxury goods group.

But it's important to note that even though Tom Ford was left out of the Gucci Museo, Frida Giannini's design template closely followed that of Mr Ford, something that some industry observers also expect of Vaccarello, especially given the huge commercial success of Saint Laurent under Slimane, not to mention his wholesale reinvention of the YSL brand architecture.

In any case, perhaps what is more interesting is that the Instagram account "@hedislimane', with a respectable 66,500 followers has not a single post — only a link to Slimane's website which includes a complete list of the man's oeuvre in fashion and beyond, from his first arrival at YSL in 1999 to his halcyon days at Dior Homme which seared him into the collective fashion consciousness to his stunning debut campaign for his return to Saint Laurent in July 2012.

Where Slimane goes next is perhaps the biggest question in fashion at the moment. Could it be Chanel? Or Dior? Or, more likely, the launch of his long-awaited eponymous label which, ostensibly, he would never leave. Or maybe he's done with fashion once and for all.

Let's see.

Imran Amed, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Updated 8:50pm GMT+1 on 8 April, 2016:

A spokesperson for Gucci confirmed to BoF that the brand's current creative director Alessandro Michele is working on updating the Gucci Museo in Florence with a section dedicated to the Tom Ford era.

Updated 2:50pm GMT+1 on 9 April, 2016:

This article was updated after reader feedback indicated that YSL had not been actively using its Instagram account, which featured only a few posts prior to Slimane's departure.

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