On the eve of New
York Fashion Week, the eyes of the fashion world will be fixed
on Los Angeles, where Saint Laurent is presenting a bumper AW16
men's and women's show. It marks a significant shift from its usual
home at Paris Fashion Week, which will only have a small show this
year, but is just another in a line of bold and innovative moves by
its creative director Hedi Slimane.
Slimane has transformed the French fashion house - quite literally
stripping the first name of its celebrated founder "Yves" from the
company's ready-to-wear line - since taking charge in 2012. The
brand's rise has been meteoric under his direction.
On the eve of New York Fashion Week, the eyes of the fashion
world will be fixed on Los Angeles, where Saint Laurent is
presenting a bumper AW16 men's and women's show. It marks a
significant shift from its usual home at Paris Fashion Week, which
will only have a small show this year, but is just another in a
line of bold and innovative moves by its creative director Hedi
Slimane has transformed the French fashion house - quite
literally stripping the first name of its celebrated founder "Yves"
from the company's ready-to-wear line - since taking charge in
2012. The brand's rise has been meteoric under his direction.
In the face of increasing competition from "affordable luxury"
brands like Kors and Kate Spade to new Asian luxury
brands, Saint Laurent has doubled its sales revenue since Slimane took over, helping Kering, its
parent company, to strengthen its position in the luxury industry.
Before Slimane, YSL was mostly selling shoes and handbags. Since he
joined, its ready-to-wear line has been flying off the shelves.
Much has been written about the way Slimane the designer - how
he reinvented menswear during his time at Dior, redefining the silhouette of the modern
man and popularising the super-skinny look - Slimane's achievements
with Saint Laurent also exemplifies best practice for luxury
Saint Laurent's renewed success can first be attributed to an
elegant and clever rebranding strategy which saw its name change to
Saint Laurent Paris, shortly after Slimane took over. The new name
represents a tribute to the original - when its eponymous founder
launched his ready-to-wear line in 1966 it was under the name Saint
Laurent Rive Gauche - and uses the same font and nomenclature. It
also capitalises on its city of origin, which is especially
important outside of traditional European markets.
Another important aspect of the rebranding strategy is the fact
that the brand puts forward the name of its creative director -
items are presented in fashion magazines as "Saint Laurent by Hedi
Slimane". This shows the importance of contemporary designers and
suggests that their names can matter as much as the name of the
traditional luxury labels that carry their collections. This has
also been the case at Chanel with Karl Lagerfeld's influence as
creative director and Raf Simons at Dior.
sleek. EPA/Ian Langsdon
The transition of the brand from a "loud" branding strategy,
featuring conspicuous and highly recognisable logos, to a more
"quiet" one has also been an important aspect behind Saint
Laurent's success. Now it relies on more subtle tailoring details
which have become associated with the brand: its signature
stitching patterns, use of semi-sheer fabric and zip details.
The move to a less conspicuous but still subtly branded strategy
shows an understanding of current luxury industry trends. Consumers
are increasingly turning away from loud or heavily branded luxury
products and favour more discreet goods. This can be explained by a
desire not to appear too extravagant in the current financial
crisis climate, as well as by a maturing of preferences - favouring
products that have the cachet of appealing to connoisseurs.
Classic and cool
Saint Laurent has showed that luxury brands can successfully
gain inspiration from the streets without losing their identity and
perceived exclusivity. Saint Laurent's inspiration from street
culture is best exemplified by the recruitment of models with the
right look from off the street to create shows that are edgy, while
Slimane has also drawn heavily upon musical inspiration. His
shows commission custom-made rock soundtracks, often produced by
emerging artists. And his collections have heavily referenced the
grunge movement. The decision to present the AW16 collection in LA,
just days before the Grammy music awards take place there, is a
tribute to the city's musical heritage. And Slimane's combined
creative and artistic direction of shows ensures their successful
tailoring and it-girl models have helped secure Saint Laurent's
success. EPA/Etienne Laurent
As well as setting new standards for cool, the brand has also
launched a "permanent collection". Through signature pieces,
available season after season, Saint Laurent is able to exemplify
the essence of luxury and luxury goods. Consumers not only buy
luxury goods for their style, quality and durability, but also for
their timeless nature.
The permanent collection features classic pieces such as the
brand's iconic biker jacket or the traditional Breton stripe shirt,
all of which regularly sell out season after season. It also
ingeniously positions the brand as a reference point for timeless
and classic luxury pieces.
Overall, the work
done at Saint Laurent, much to the credit of its artistic director,
shows how a luxury brand's fate can be overturned. Saint Laurent's
sales are skyrocketing when other luxury brands face severe
difficulties. The future of the brand however remains tied to a few
questions, including its dependency on its creative director around
whom rumours of a departure swirl. There is also the question of
its capacity to maintain a balance between being connected to the
street and pop culture, while cultivating an image of timelessness
Last year, ESCP Europe Business School was awarded the
in Creativity Marketing, to be held by two of its London-based
Professors, Dr Marie
Taillard and Dr
of this agreement, L'Oréal becomes a Founding Corporate Member of
ESCP Europe's Creativity Marketing
Full-time MSc in Marketing and
Part-time Executive Master in Marketing and