If you keep up with fashion industry gossip, you probably already know what this is all about. If not, let me give you a bit of background: Hedi Slimane’s first women’s collection as creative director at Yves Saint Laurent/Saint Laurent Paris (and his first women’s collection ever, period) was not particularly well-received. To the vast majority of critics who viewed it (and to me), it looked a lot like a not-particularly-inventive retread of classic YSL ideas with a dash of Rachel Zoe thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t bad, per se, it just didn’t appear to be looking forward to the future of fashion. That fact was particularly blatant when compared to the season’s other highly anticipated debut, Raf Simons’ excellent, modern collection for Dior.
On top of that, YSL PR, apparently at Slimane’s behest, has taken to trying to micromanage the media response to both the collection and to Slimane’s efforts to rebrand YSL in general. (For an excellent read on the details of those efforts, check out Business of Fashion.) In particular, Slimane’s personal response to the middling reviews has been inelegant at best; he sent out a tweet that contained an open-letter graphic to New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn that was at once arrogant, passive-aggressive and immature. Having a public tantrum when your collection isn’t reviewed the way you had hoped is problematic in its own right, but in a larger sense, does it make a brand seem less desirable to you as a consumer?
Horyn occasionally finds herself at odds with designers over her blunt opinions, and she has the opportunity to express them in a way that other fashion editors don’t because The Times itself isn’t beholden to the good graces of fashion brands for ad revenue and loaned clothing for editorials. She’s one of the most well-respected critics in the world, though, and any designer taking the helm of a brand as large as YSL should be prepared to deal with a negative review from someone like her with the grace of a seasoned professional, at least for the sake of the brand’s public image.
I was excited to see Hedi’s debut and a bit disappointed with the collection, although my hopes were still high for the accessories (which, by all indications, will feel more current than the clothes did). Following all the controversy and Slimane’s public display of immaturity, though, I can’t help but feel…less excited. Behavior like his makes me lose respect for people, and I’m not sure I can spend a huge amount of money on a bag from a source that I don’t really respect. Not to mention that there’s nothing luxurious or high-end about trying to start a Twitter screaming match with a professional who was simply doing her job – reviewing a collection. I felt similarly about the collection that John Galliano produced for Dior that hit stores after he had been fired for his public anti-Semitic rant; even if the bags looked good, they’d still make me feel like I’m endorsing an attitude and identity that’s far less chic than it should be, for the price. So much of luxury is about image and branding that a lack of professionalism taints it for me; some of the specialness has been chipped away.
Do you feel the same way? Does the way that a designer conducts himself affect your perceptions or your buying patterns?