Since the news broke on October 22nd that Raf Simons was to step down as creative director at Christian Dior, sartorial whispers have been whipping up a frenzied storm: who will take his place - arguably one of the most covetable spots in the fashion business?
Owned by Bernard Arnault’s LVMH conglomerate, the Dior brand is worth USD $35.1 billion, according to Forbes in May of this year. That’s over $10 billion more than the entire Kering group, LVMH’s biggest competitor and owner of Saint Laurent.
Some think Dior may go the way of Gucci, where the relatively unknown Alessandro Michele took the helm and has - in four collections - created massive revenue success for Kering. And yet, I’d like to stoke the fire with a new name: Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane. It would doubtless cause industry divide if such a prediction were to come true.
He’s the fashion renegade that took one of France’s most iconic brands to LA, ripped Le Smoking apart, gave it an entirely new identity (that even now, many still don’t fully accept) and then took his sharpened scissors to tights, pairing them with rock-chick slip dresses, tiaras and denim cut-offs. Following Simons’ calm, conceptual creativity, Slimane may seem a surprising choice; he’s everything that Dior isn’t.
Saint Laurent SS'16 Collection. Photo by Vogue Runway
Instead, Slimane is like a rebellious younger sibling to Simons. Where Simons looks to Marion Cottilard, Slimane loves Patti Smith. Simons’ silhouettes waft down the catwalk in sheer silks; Slimane’s girls stomp in leather, leopard and last night’s make-up.
Despite the ripples of contention following his appointment at the then Yves Saint Laurent - caused mainly by his renaming the brand ‘Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane’ - Slimane has tapped into the consumer with his extortionately-priced take on youth culture, rock music and most recently, the festival scene. Saint Laurent has seen fiscal growth under him and has a cult following like never before. Where Slimane goes, a wealth of fans follow.
However, can he work for Dior? Though a 180-degree turn from Simons’ artistic sensibility, does he not remind us of another brilliantly talented former Creative Director of Dior? Is there not a little John Galliano in Slimane’s devil-may-care attitude?
That said, where Galliano and Simons are creatively astounding, always presenting us with a new take on the Dior story, Slimane does not do this. Like his Kering counterpart, Michele, Slimane has pinpointed his Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane customer and remains true to her identity, in turn certifying he is not the most creative force out there. He is consistent – albeit disobediently. A sense of stability, though, may be desirable to LVMH and could likewise push clothing sales up too.
One thing is for certain; if I’m proven right, it would be a very new era at France’s grande dame of fashion should Slimane take the post. Arnault is a savvy businessman who cannot ignore the fact that sales have doubled at Saint Laurent under Slimane (from EU €353 million in 2011 to €707 million in 2014).
Saint Laurent Couture Rue de L'universite, Photography by Hedi Slimane
Maybe the former Dior Homme creative head (Slimane being with the brand 2000-07) will be welcomed back into the fold to work on a bigger stage? There are more questions than answers at the moment: What would Dior look like under Slimane? Time may tell. Would it be entirely re-branded? And would that be the end of the world?
All I can say if that happens is that Dior would likely attract a younger customer by tapping into Slimane’s understanding of the oft-unloved by the fashion behemoths, millennial generation. Total outrage for many is perhaps the only other sure-fire result.
Words: Anna Haze
Images source: Vogue Runway / Getty Images