10 July 2017

Defining a Decade

In 2011, i-D interviewed Hedi Slimane about new youth, California Dreaming and the street-cast boys that constantly stalked through his mind in black and white. As he turned 49 last week and as another addition to my favourite interview series is long overdue, I remembered this specific interview which focused on his exhibition Fragments Americana, and his book entitled Anthology of a Decade; both continuing the creative's idea of allusive portraiture and signs. The latter also focused on emerging acts and individuals, through music and street casting which was Slimane's organic way to outline the fundamentals of what was about to happen – not only in his career and what he was going to do at Saint Laurent, but to the aesthetic of fashion in general. The idea was to put a generation into perspective, dissect the scene and energy that emerged and define the vibration of the past decade.

what made you feel now was the right time to compile Anthology of a Decade?
It's never the moment really to be looking at the past, for me at least - I might be too sentimental for it - but I somehow needed to put all this behind me. Although I just sum up those years [the 00s] and have to deal with an archive I cannot even handle myself, boxes full of negatives, which have to be digitalised, dating from the mid 80s. The anthology is an edit, focused on the last decade. It's a strange thing for me to put things on record, somehow, as I usually disconnect from the past, or feel a little saddened by it. [Anthology of a Decade] happens to be about debutants, anything emerging, unaffected or damaged, from Berlin, to London, Paris, or Los Angeles, starting in 1999 until today.

Cole Mohr debuts, Paris Dior Homme aftershow, 2007.

going through old albums or archives is an emotional experience. did the process bring back memories?
Yes, it did really. Not the years, but the characters I got emotionally attached to, which I desperately tried to preserve through photography. I am happy to have all this now, and keep it very preciously, mostly for memories other than my own. I assume, at a young age, the idea of representation, documentation, memory is not an issue - it's all in the making of music, living the moment, in the most restless manner. I was always concerned with the fragility and vulnerability of it all, at least from, maybe, age fifteen; a camera in my hand, taking pictures of my friends. The pictures, books, all my archives are there for the subjects of the photograph only, as a reminder of their grace and vibrant youth.

Disconcerts debuts, London, 2009

you started taking pictures as an adolescent, before you touched clothes, of course. Did you always have such an evocative viewpoint and fascination with geometry?
I started photography during school at the age of eleven, with technique and darkroom evening classes. I loved my teacher which helped keep my focus, looking forward to refuge in the lab whenever I did not have class.We could use the darkroom to process our photographs at any time. Fashion came late, although I have more memories of fabric suppliers as a kid, than kindergarten. My mother was, by family tradition, a really good seamstress. As for the viewpoint in photography or fashion (which was always, for me, the consequence of my interest in photography), the 'feel' has stayed the same. Geometry came at fifteen, I was influenced strongly and offered a book about Alexander Rodchenko and the avant-garde for my birthday. For years, until the early 90s I guess, I was experimenting with frames, obliques, or depth of field. Later I was quite influenced by Caspar David Friedrich and the sense of scale between the subject and the frame around him, monumental nature. I remember being a kid, around six or seven, bored to death on Wednesday afternoons, when not in class. I would play with cards on the floor and lay them out in geometries and psycho-rigid alignments, in repetitive manner, for hours.

On a different note, in France we have a tradition, expressed in architecture - inspired by the classics obviously - which is called ordonnance. L'ordonnance, and symmetry, at its best in the French XVII or XVIIIs, ended up the idea of French style itself. Geometry and stiffness one can see transposed in the tradition of French couture, and ateliers. From changing the organic shapes of nature to create les jardins à la Française, as opposed to British naturalism, to impeccable alignment of our architectural facades, it is, by nature, in our culture. I guess it had a strong influence on me, growing up and loving French history. Until I jumped to modernism, which somehow remains a transferal of classic, reduced principles. I was always interested in the idea of vitesse, which is not really speed and not really motion, but the representation, or at least the attempt to represent motion in life without jumping all the way to film (multiple frames per second).The idea of a still in motion, an archaism of movement and life. 

The Heartbreaks debuts, London, 2010.

how did los angeles make its impact on you?
Technically, I was in LA when I decided to quit Dior, and put design in perspective for some time. I always thought I would love one day to put things on hold and move there, tightening things around me. I finally did it. I just feel home strangely. It is quite healing for me, it's hard to explain. I really moved in 2010, although I don't spend enough time there, unfortunately. It has a strong influence on me.

Parisian fan shouting, the fan serie, Paris, 2005.