Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme

With an Italian mother, Tunisian father, and Brazilian grandmother, Hedi Slimane embodies the new global fashion. Here Charla Carter chats with the man who could do for menswear what Yves Saint Laurent did for women 40 years ago.

Anybody familiar with Paris fashion is probably aware of the game of musical chairs being played in the women's arena: Will Nicolas Ghesquière grab Gucci? Olivier Theyskens go to Givenchy? Who's jockeying for Jil Sander?

Until now, the menswear realm had generally been spared all that frenzied speculation. But during the fall/winter mens' shows in late January, all Paris was abuzz. In what critics loved to call a "Gladiator"-style clash, Gucci's Tom Ford presented his first men's collection for Yves Saint Laurent, and Hedi Slimane (shown, right), who'd occupied Ford's chair at YSL until July, showed his first clothing line under the Dior Homme label the next day. Fuel sloshed onto the flames when front-row-watchers noted that Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé attended Slimane's Dior debut, but were conspicuously absent from Ford's show for YSL -- the house the pair co-founded.

The votes are now tallied, and it's pretty much ... a tie. The consensus seems to be that there's room in the fashion universe for both Kings of Cool, that Ford's particular brand of sleek, sexy style can easily coexist in a man's closet alongside Slimane's equally erotic, edgy clothes (shown, below). As for all the media brouhaha, Hedi Slimane couldn't care less. As he emphasizes in the following interview with eLUXURY's Paris-based fashion and beauty editor, Charla Carter, his real concern is "to recreate the culture of the Dior label." And, who knows? Maybe in the process, this pale 32-year-old dressed in loose-hipped jeans, rhinestone belt, and slim black coat who just narrowly escaped becoming a political journalist may achieve his ultimate goal -- that of "completely re-defining men's fashion."

C.C. - In your four years at YSL, you totally revamped its nondescript menswear image by producing luxuriously tailored clothes with a subversive twist that many called "androgynous." Now that you're at Dior, will you be designing any differently?

H.S. - It would be dishonest for me to do "a look of the season" or a particular style under the pretext that I've changed fashion houses. It's just not me. I don't like formulas; my approach to design is purely intuitive. What I designed for YSL was a little more raw; Dior Homme may be more romantic -- more poetic, perhaps. As for my clothes being branded "feminine," I think it's all a state of mind. Who cares whether a guy or a girl wears the garments? This masculine/feminine dialectic doesn't interest me -- in my head, we're all a little bit of both.

C.C. - Leaving one illustrious French couture house for another -- was the transition difficult?

H.S. - Not really. Of course, Yves Saint laurent has a cachet that's hard to beat; a rich history. But historically, the two houses are linked -- don't forget, Yves Saint Laurent started out at Christian Dior. It was a logical transition for me.

C.C. - Was the project at all daunting?

H.S. This Dior project is fabulous! The challenge for me is to try new things, to push the boundaries. It's an extremely well-known brand, but it's a label that up until now has had no real identity. Everything needed re-thinking -- the name, the label, the proportions, the shoulder-lines, the collars -- even the basics of the Dior Homme environment: its offices.

C.C. Your fashion show -- a starkly minimalist runway with models emerging from a luminous blue background -- was certainly a departure for the tad traditional Dior. As were the clothes. Almost all black and white, your signature taut tailoring -- revealing lots of bare skin -- was very much in evidence. Even the pre-show newspaper advertising, double-page black-and-white studio portraits of a bare-torsoed blond boy (shot by Richard Avedon, no less) seem a galaxy away from Dior menswear's image as we know it.

H.S. That's the point. What appealed to me about the Dior proposition was that it's a blank page. I'm not here to do a reincarnation of Christian Dior. I wanted the runway show to be a little "hard core," and very fast. Many of the models we chose for the show were practically unknowns -- I found them on the bus, walking in the street. And Eric Van Nostrand, the boy I chose for the Avedon ads, is a new model, fresh from a small town in upstate New York. I wanted those photos to represent the viewpoint of a new generation -- to distill its energy.

C.C. So Dior Homme's mission now is to dress this "new generation" of men?

H.S. Well, I'd like to think there's a return to elegance, a revival of the notion of "fashion" for men. I've mounted a crusade against this informal "casual Friday" trend. I'd like men to think about evolving into something more sophisticated, more seductive for a change. I'm not a militant, but what I'm really interested in is exploring the possibility of an entirely new kind of masculinity.

Article from eLuxury Magazine

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