Hedi Slimane brings Yves Saint Laurent’s couture spirit back to life
Hedi Slimane revives the Saint Laurent couture spirit in a sublime 17th-century mansion in Paris’s Rue de l'Université.
How do you define exclusivity? What is a Parisian couture house in 2015? What dreams does it personify? Going against the grain of the established labels, Hedi Slimane, Creative Director of Saint Laurent, has answers for our times.
In 1961, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé founded the haute-couture house Yves Saint Laurent, and in 1967 launched the ready-to-wear line Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Since his arrival at the brand in 2012, Hedi Slimane has been secretly working to revive the sacred flame. His way. A runway show in the official haute-couture calendar was out of the question. As was a showroom presentation. For it’s certainly not under the generic “Made in France” label, in the shared bath of the Parisian workshops, that Slimane hopes to revive the myth, lustre, dream and added value of his haute-couture pieces. Instead he has looked to the history of the brand itself: a Parisian symbol of excellence whose infinitely rich past is intimately intertwined with architecture and the arts.
First of all the brand is personified by a place: the Hôtel de Sénecterre, built in 1685 by Thomas Gobert, architect to Louis XIV, at 24 rue de l’Université on the Left Bank (more intellectual and arty). Slimane has filled this historic property with a collection of furniture and artworks that weave a narrative weft linking the 18th century to our times. Above the Louis Quinze staircase hangs a black and white diptych commissioned from the artist Garth Weiser – a very Parisian graphic contrast that is typical of Slimane’s visual ambiance.
The original garden, which had completely disappeared, has been entirely recreated according to archival documents. Where the furniture is concerned, it’s a mix of the Saint Laurent collection – Yves and Pierre Bergé put together a stunning collection of modern art and Art Deco design, part of which was sold at an historic auction in 2009 – and pieces belonging to Slimane. We thus find a mix of modern, Art Deco and 18th-century furniture, with pride of place going to Elizabeth Eyre de Lanux, Slimane’s favourite Modernist designer, including a desk that once stood in Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment in the Rue de Babylone. As for the artworks, minimalism and graphic rhythm dominate: Carl Andre, Daniel Buren and Ad Reinhardt.
At the Hôtel de Sénecterre, Slimane has constructed a journey through the history of French excellence. The advertising campaign, shot in the mansion, shows models wearing pieces from the new “Yves Saint Laurent” haute-couture label. Made by “tailoring” and “dressmaking” workshops, as is traditional in Parisian couture, these garments are exclusive commissions realized on a case-by-case basis for women who embody the brand’s spirit (actresses, musicians, etc.). Identified with an ivory-silk label bearing the name Yves Saint Laurent, they are, according to the brand, the perfect complement to the more rock ’n’ roll ready-to-wear that Slimane has been designing since 2012.
By Delphine Roche