“I always have this idea that [a collection] has to look vaguely wrong to feel right,” Hedi Slimane tells Yahoo Style in an exclusive interview today. The Saint Laurent designer, who does precious few press sit-downs, has candid things to say about meeting Yves Saint Laurent (“Yves was really shy, and I was way younger and quite impressed by his elegance, aura and kindness”) and the rebranding he brought about for his debut. “The first week … I designed a completely new concept for the Saint Laurent stores,” he says, “a concept I keep fine-tuning according to the evolution of the house and my perception of the moment.” Slimane feels that fashion needs to keep up with the times — as he puts it, “The fashion industry has not caught up to the current pace of social media.”
When he began at Saint Laurent after a short hiatus from fashion, Slimane acknowledges that he initially caught some flak in the press for appearing reclusive: “Some of the reactions were probably in response to me appearing remote or ‘not accessible,’” he concedes, “and I completely understand. However, I wouldn’t pretend to be someone I am not … Remote and in a quiet environment is closer to my nature.”
He also gives a glimpse into his love of skinny silhouettes: the same ones that, when he worked at Dior Homme, inspired Karl Lagerfeld to go on a diet. He recalls that as a teenager (yes, that’s teenage Hedi above), “I was precisely just like any of these guys I photograph, or that walk my shows … Many in high school, or in my family, were attempting to make me feel I was half a man because I was lean, and not an athletic build. They were bullying me for some time, so that I might feel uncomfortable with myself, insinuating skinny was ‘queer.’ There was certainly something homophobic and [derogatory] about those remarks.” To cope, he looked to rock-star heroes like David Bowie and Keith Richards. “They looked the same and I wanted to do everything to be like them, and not hide myself in baggy clothes to avoid negative comments,” he says. And it was on the scaffolding of those teenage insecurities, it seems, that an empire of 27-inch-waist skinny jeans was built.