Meanwhile, before he left, there was griping within the house that Mr. Slimaneâs insistence on ironclad control over every aspect of the brand created roadblocks to growth (thereâs only so much one man can do in a day). While there are obvious reasons for this kind of spin from Saint Laurent, the company also didnât seem to fight too hard to keep him.
And while he brought a new silhouette to menâs wear during his time at Dior Homme (another brand he left, back in 2007), narrow and sharp, he never really changed how women dressed. Rather, his greatest contribution during his Saint Laurent tenure was arguably to change how brands were conceived, starting the vogue for handing full creative control to a designer (see: Gucci, Calvin Klein, Givenchy). Which is no small thing. Except then he exited his creation, declaring that he had done what he came to do, which made it seem like the whole thing had been a conceptual experiment as opposed to a commitment to helping his customers understand how to express themselves in an ongoing way through dress.
And while fashion then invented lots of reasons Mr. Slimane might have wanted to leave, largely centering on better and bigger jobs, none of them have come to pass. Which raises the question of whether they were rooted in our own fantasies of Hedi, rather than in reality.
As to where those fantasies came from: Well, you always want what you cannot have, and in this period of insecurity (whither fashion? whither fashion weeks?), absolute belief in your own absolute rightness is a powerfully seductive weapon to wield.
Mr. Slimane was a genius at appearing to reject the industry while never actually turning his back on it. He refused to give interviews, but invited journalists backstage after shows to pay their respects. He insisted on moving the Saint Laurent design studio to Los Angeles, but he also created a new maison in Paris. He swapped elegance for grunge on the runway, but actually merchandised his collections to the hilt, so there was plenty for everyone hidden under the post-angst aesthetic. He has left fashion â but not fashion magazines. You know what I mean.
And the worse he treated fashion, the more fashion tried to win his favor. Itâs been almost like an extended piece of performance art, conceived to see how far he could push the industry and keep it coming back for more.
Clearly, itâs worked in his favor. But as your mother might say: Itâs not healthy.
So maybe we should let sleeping Hedis lie â at least until Mr. Slimane stops teasing his re-entry and actually makes a return. It seems pretty clear heâs interested; otherwise, why keep agreeing itâs possible?
Then he can be welcomed back, his work judged on its merits instead of on his personal mystique, or his photography left to stand on its own instead of being attached to a discourse about what he brought to fashion and why he is pretend-estranged from it.
In the meantime, those wanting to know how to keep their name in the conversation even when they donât have a brand to go with it could do worse than consider the strategy of Mr. Slimane.