13 May 2016

Decoding the Slimane Cipher

Saint Laurent’s designer-less-limbo was elegantly avoided and the prompt appointment of Anthony Vaccarello acted as a Medusa-clad Versus Versace heel, stamping the momentum right out of any initial replacement rumours. More than a month later and a beaming question mark remains over the next move for Slimane… Return to Dior? Focus on an eponymous collection? Take the double-C baton at Chanel? Release a rock ’n’ roll remix of 2Pac’s “California Love” because he’s so obsessed with the Golden State?

Rewind back to April Fool’s Day, when you can’t tell if any information you come across is legit or a desperate attempt to pry on any remaining naivety. As the day progressed, articles sprung off the back of a statement from François-Henri Pinault on the departure of Slimane from Saint Laurent and they were everywhere. Rumours had been circulating since January that the time had come for the designer to say cheerio to the French fashion house but I still couldn’t fully believe it. I’d already been fooled by H&M’s Mark Zuckerberg collaboration announcement after they took it too far with a campaign and website to support their hilarious prank so my levels of cynicism had reached an all time high. I realised that the news was in fact true and opened my mind to the possibilities for both one of my favourite brands and one of my favourite designers.

With Raf Simons' departure from Dior, there’s a Creative Director position that we can assume is pretty much open to him if he would want it. From 2000-2007, he was of course Creative Director of Dior Homme so a move back could be perceived as both valuable or invaluable for Slimane. Yes, it’s a progression in the sense that he would naturally oversee womenswear as opposed to solely menswear but at the same time, it’s a been there done that situation and you can imagine that he wouldn’t be one to retrace his own footsteps. There were whispers back in 2011 that he would replace Galliano in the role but nothing came of it and his appointment at Yves Saint Laurent – prior to the banishing of “Yves” – was complete a year later.

Last Wednesday, Slimane tweeted a statement from his lawyers reading: “For the record, Hedi Slimane has never had in the past, let alone now, the intention or desire to launch a brand under his name and therefore denies recent rumours of alleged encounters with investors, in Paris or Doha, where Hedi Slimane has in fact never been”. So any mistaken thoughts that he’s been to Doha before, where he has in fact never been - just in case you were wondering, were corrected. More importantly, the press release squashed the never-ending rumours of the launch of his own line but is the fuel to the now-roaring fire that is the only obvious remaining possibility… Chanel.

Karl Lagerfeld and Hedi Slimane have known and admired each other for years. Karl lost 90lbs so that he could fit into one of the Belgian’s infamous skinny Dior Homme suits and at around 83 years old (we think) he may be set to retire soon. In more recent news, Karl wore a slinky, sequinned Saint Laurent jacket to the Chanel Resort 2017 show this week in Cuba. While the attention should’ve been on the collection, the choice of Cuba to host the show; perhaps highlighting a new target market, and even the fact that Fidel Castro’s son was there - arguably the biggest talking point is Karl trolling us all by wearing this jacket and dropping hint bombs through his sartorial selections.

While his appointment as Karl’s replacement if and when his retirement happens wouldn’t come as a surprise, Karl has deeply expressed his desire to stay at the house until he dies, quite literally. All of these dots are scattered around, here there and everywhere, but if you join them up with precision, understanding and decoding of information, there’s one remaining option under the spotlight - a Chanel full-scale menswear collection. The UK menswear market is forecast to grow by 25.7 per cent every year until 2019, outperforming all other clothing sectors as it goes. That’s on top of an 18 percent growth in the past five years, making the market worth £12.9bn, a serious rival to the traditionally dominant womenswear market. Most of the Chanel collections, whether ready-to-wear, Resort or Couture are punctuated with menswear looks but an established collection isn’t something that’s evolved for the house. By not exploiting this growing sector, they’re essentially sitting on a winning lottery ticket that they're too afraid to cash. 

It goes beyond the monetary aspect and obvious profit that it would bring: the press will love it no matter what, it’s going to be perceived as an innovative move and I really think it’s a positive thing for the already-golden image of the brand. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and all of that but if it's non-existent, is it worth giving it a bash? Plus, it’s no secret that Chanel wants to be cool. It’s bejewelled trainers and choices of ambassadors (see Lily-Rose Depp at the Met Gala) are more than enough evidence, making Slimane a tempting prospect. Any hesitation on Slimane’s part would come in the form of creative liberty and him being able to carry his aesthetic throughout a brand that’s more eloquent tradition than fishnets and fags. If all else fails and his romantic rock remix of 2Pac’s “California Love” does drop then you heard it here first