I love this interview of Hedi Slimane by Stephane Gaboue over at Hint Mag, it's very insight and gives us a better understanding of the man who changed the game and his state of mind during those times. Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Let’s time travel back to the beginning. We're in the mid-nineties and you’ve just been promoted to Yves Saint Laurent’s menswear designer. What was going through your mind?
I was extremely naive, and at the same time very grounded. I wanted not to disappoint Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who had trusted me. There were around 30 collections to watch, each season from all the license agreements around the world. Mind you this was a different time for luxury houses, with tons of licenses, a legacy from the early 80s. I found the only way to make YSL menswear relevant again, in the manner of the late '60s, when Yves was designing, was to go back to hardcore luxury, focusing on Rive Gauche, the house line, and move from menswear to men's fashion. It was a new area in Paris, and no couture house at the time had even thought about the potential of men's fashion, not only in terms of image, but in terms of business. It was therefore a commitment, and a daily battle to bring the attention back to Paris and to the old gems of couture, the beauty of our tradition and craftsmanship.
Who were your first big supporters, the people who believed in you right from the start?
Pierre Bergé was the biggest supporter, together with Yves Saint Laurent, who was always very kind and in very good spirits. It was a little complicated for the house at the time, because officially Yves Saint Laurent was supposed to design every collection, including men's. Also, after my first presentation, without telling me, Pierre Bergé literally pushed me onto the runway—if you could call it a runway, there were only 20 attendees. It was very moving. I will never forget it, and can never thank him enough. Betty Catroux, Yves's best friend, was another big supporter. She still is, as a matter of fact. The UK press was also quite ahead of the game. They maybe had a clear understanding of what I had in mind.
What are your lasting memories of your YSL days?
It was the age of innocence. So much was impossible in menswear at the time, at a Paris couture house in particular. It was therefore totally exciting to be clueless about it, and push the boundaries without looking back a second. I was totally free, although technically the first collections for Rive Gauche were more like a studio thing. The taste was Yves and Pierre's. I started to really pursue my own design the last two seasons. I developed an obsession about male debutants and defining a balance of a couture tradition transposed within the sartorial tradition, but within a hedonistic youth context. It was impossible at the time for someone young and lean to find a jacket that would fit, and that would not be too much of an uber-design or conceptual statement. The '90s were still into this obsolete '80s idea of les createurs, as opposed to les couturiers. The only options were either sportswear or designer clothes à la Japonaise. I was trying this idea of colliding two worlds, like society-couture-glamour-luxury making out with youth culture. Those two worlds had obviously nothing in common, to say the least, and that was the whole point. I wanted to escape any sort of caricature or cliche, like the silver spoon or rebellious youth. I thought the truth, the relevance, the modernity—a suspicious concept—was somewhere in between. Of course this idea—to sum up, my daily tux jacket with a pair of skinny jeans, among many of my style ideas—was later heavily appropriated by the industry. But in the late 90s it was totally a new thing, since no men's fashion was coming out of couture, which was still stuck in duty free and licensing. And the design coming out of the shows at the time were a bit light in craftsmanship, a little cheaply made. I guess this was my definition of what men's fashion could be in a couture house. I was and have always been a couturier, not a designer. I was into the long tradition and fashion heritage that I turned inside out and gave to a younger audience as an hedonistic playground, dressing indie kids like young princes.
Read the rest of the interview at Hint Mag by clicking link below.