When I first heard the rumor that Yves Saint Laurent‘s new creative director Hedi Slimane was looking to change the iconic French luxury house’s name, admittedly, I scoffed. “Silly slow-news-day gossip that will never be substantiated,” I said to myself. Because what else could it be? Almost all of YSL’s branding over the last 10 years has centered squarely on the importance of the brand’s initials, and the Y in particular – from the incredibly popular Yves Saint Laurent Cabas ChYc to the Yves Saint Laurent Easy Bag, practically every major bag that the brand currently sells is predicated on the Y. Even many of the men’s bags use the logo heavily, and YSL’s logo is a stylized set of initials. The name is the brand.
And then today, the brand confirmed to Women’s Wear Daily that by the time Slimane’s first collection debuts in the brand’s stores in 2013, Yves Saint Laurent will be known as Saint Laurent Paris. The WWD article mentions changes to the ready-to-wear line specifically, and also that the YSL name will be used for “institutional” purposes, whatever that means. Additionally, the iconic YSL logo will remain in use in some capacities. Otherwise, Slimane will return YSL (SLP?) to the branding used in 1966, all the way down to the fonts. What the article makes no mention of, however, is what will become of the heavily Y-branded bags.
Although YSL’s handbags sell well, fashion people have been speculating for seasons that a change of course might be needed (not to mention welcome). It’s been fun to see how Saint Laurent will incorporate a Y into each of its bags – sometimes it’s a stitched-in piece that overtakes the entire facade, sometimes it’s a giant piece of hardware, sometimes it’s just a demure little luggage tag on an otherwise Y-less design – but the idea was starting to reach the end of its logical cycle, particularly considering the ubiquity of the Cabas ChYc. (Note the capitalized Y.)
Because we don’t know much about the upcoming transition, including how it will affect accessories, it’s possible that the bags as we know them will stick around for a while, not only because they’re still popular but also because too much accessories upheaval at once can wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line. That’s a chance that’s perhaps not worth taking while the other elements of Saint Laurent Paris are still being solidified and consumers are still adjusting to the brand’s new direction. Or maybe Slimane will surprise us all with a completely fresh accessories strategy for Spring 2013; at this point, I wouldn’t put it past him.
The only thing that seems certain, though, that maintaing the Y branding in the long term would run counter to Slimane’s big plans for remaking the brand into something more focused on its early heritage. If you’ve had your eye on one of YSL’s current bags, it might be a good idea to go ahead and scoop it up. For our money, Net-a-Porter and Neiman Marcus have the best selection of the brand’s bags on the Internet.
So what do you think? Are you ready for a new direction for YSL, or is Slimane messing with something that you’d rather be left untouched?