Sunday 17 December 2017

YSL exit illustrates pressures facing top fashion brands

Former YSL creative Hedi Slimane
Former YSL creative Hedi Slimane

Andrew Roberts

Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane became the latest top designer to quit a leading fashion house, adding to a slew of management shuffles across the sector.

Slimane, 47, ended a four-year mission to reposition the couture house, parent company Kering said in a statement.

The company said it would announce a new creative team for the 55-year-old brand "in due course". Its stock closed down 2.1pc on Friday.

Slimane's exit follows departures by fellow creative directors Massimiliano Giornetti at Salvatore Ferragamo and Raf Simons at Christian Dior, both of whom have yet to be replaced.

Kering has now changed leadership at three of its four biggest luxury brands in the past year, as well as at suitmaker Brioni.

The departures come as luxury demand slows and companies such as Burberry seek to speed up delivery, making collections available for purchase immediately afterwards.

Today's demanding fashion cycles means that retailers are now expected to show new content in their store windows and online every few weeks, piling pressure on their creative teams.

"The days are gone of people being at labels for 25 years," said Jane Kellock, founder of trend consultant Unique Style Platform. "The internet means consumers want change and are looking for something new."

Slimane's successor will be challenged to maintain the label's brisk sales, which grew more than 20pc a year during his tenure.

Sales increased from €353.7m in 2011 to €973.6m in 2015.

The designer transformed Saint Laurent from a brand that lived off the reputation of its namesake founder into one of the fashion industry's hottest labels, targeting a younger audience with €1,150 bags and €3,200 leather jackets.

He also stamped his authority by moving the design studio to Los Angeles from Paris and dropping 'Yves' from the label's name in 2012.

Slimane worked as Saint Laurent's menswear designer at the end of the 1990s, before leaving to join Dior Homme.

He later left fashion design for five years to concentrate on photography.

Yves Saint Laurent was founded in 1961.


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