When Kering, the parent company of Gucci, Balenciaga YSL and Puma reported its first-quarter earnings in late April, the news was dominated by disappointing results from Gucci, the company’s biggest name. What received less attention was the stand out success of Hedi Slimane led YSL. With the company’s luxury group, it was the only brand whose sales exceeded expectations, with sales for the quarter up 27 percent.
Quite the spectacular turn around when one considers public perception less than two years ago. Not long after joining the label in 2012, he found himself in the midst of an ugly public feud with the then New York Times fashion editor Cathy Horyn. Based on prior history, Slimane chose not to invite Horyn to his women’s runway presentation for the Autumn 2014 season, his first for the label. Using images, Horyn reviewed and panned the show, and for the most part the fashion world sided with her negative take on his designs, and also perceived Slimane as in the wrong for both denying her an invite and during the same period criticizing her via open letter on Twitter .
Horyn has since stepped down from her editor role at the Times, meanwhile as earnings results show, critical pans of Slimane’s designs have proven meaningless in the minds of his customers. His instinct (also initially criticized) to base his design house in Los Angeles and create work that speaks to the city’s decidedly not chi-chi take on fashion, mixing eras and influences sans attachment to context or precedence also proved to be correct. Slimane may not have been a favorite among critics but he was among cool folks and the thrashing he took from the press only served to further burnish his star among consumers.
Without lingering too long on the demise of fashion criticism, it seems clear Hedi Slimane won this battle while at the same time ushering in a new guard in fashion design or maybe more accurately, reconstructing the old one. Location is no longer everything and elite press approval (or disapproval) has its limits. Though Slimane does uphold old standards in some respects. In fashion and everywhere else, too, talent combined with force of personality remain king. Image above by Hedi Slimane.