11 October 2010

The Forgotten Hedi

"Three of the strongest fashion design talents—Hedi Slimane, Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela—are currently pursuing other interests. Is that a coincidence or does it say something about the current state of the system?

I cannot really speak for them. I guess we all have enough time to experiment with different things. That said, fashion, what you call the system, has become quite used and abused with conflicts of interest.

The advertising game between the media and fashion houses might have gone too far. The meltdown did not help, to say the least.

As far as design is concerned, scaling down would help a lot. The global economy meant partnerships, and partnerships in the last decade came with some risks.

But there is something ironic, an absurd ending, a justice after all. What became of Helmut Lang or Martin Margiela without them? The irrelevance of buying young brands, [that are] ten to 20 years [old], without their original designers is quite striking. I always assumed, after all, it was about authenticity. Buying those houses ends up a conceptual and costly gift with nothing left inside but a few recipes."

(Excerpt from interview with Hedi Slimane - The Future Of Fashion, Style.com, February 2010)


History is granted the magnanimous gift of hindsight, for it is inherently a study of the past.  The passing of time allows for the natural shifting of perspectives, which allow one to view the not-so-recent past in a fresher light as the years pass.  A truly critical view is perhaps only really allowed once enough time has passed, one being thus able to grasp the full implications leading up to, and caused as a result of, a specific event.  And yet with that passing of time one is perhaps encouraged to sideline contemporary perspectives and thoughts in favour of the perceived wisdom of the current methods of review.  A newer method or perspective of study is continually developed and applied, building on that which has passed, so that the very history of the history of an event is as interesting and complex as the history of the object itself.

A fashion collection is a curious thing to consider historically speaking, for it is not merely a snapshot of a designer's thoughts and ideas during a particular period, but rather any specific collection is actually intended as a projection for the then-upcoming season.  That is to entirely ignore the idea of fashion as a mirror of society, and the issues that idea raises (quite frankly I find the idea of fashion as merely a mirror an entirely ignorant reading, but it is one that is sadly often cited - fashion and society are implicitly linked, but it is a far more complex relationship).

The fantasy of the designer for that season, the way the designer's fantasy is thought of that season, the way the designer's fantasy is worn that season, the way the designer's fantasy is interpreted by others that season, the reality of fashion that season - amongst all of these exists some notion of the collection.  Once the relevant season of a specific collection has passed, that is to say the imagined future season has come to pass in reality, the projected concepts of that collection come to exist in some alternative temporality.  The no longer current collection thus becomes a document of an imagined future, yet one that is clearly settled in the past. 

The designer moves onto the next concept of what the new season will look like, and the old ideas are left to history.  Note that even current season garments can be classified as old, for the new applies to next season for the designer.  Of course a designer may return to their canon to rethink or renew an old idea for a new collection, however the original idea remains solidly in the past.  However paradoxically, this is not necessarily the case for the wearer, provided they decide to wear that original piece.   A garment from an old collection is exactly that, a piece of fashion history, embodying the ideas and fantasies that the designer expressed for that collection.  Whilst the designer constantly strives for something new (although as many point out maybe they actually strive for something old within their own past), the wardrobe of the individual consumer is a collection of old garments.  I feel that clothing is about memory.

Recycling fashion, in terms of actual physical pieces rather than simply an aesthetic or trend, adds to the constantly evolving stream of history that constitutes the history of a specific collection.  Fashion which is no longer new can not truly be considered fashion, for fashion by definition must always be new, and yet the lifespan of an individual garment as worn by an owner may pass into many years, and even decades.  In such a way, although the idea behind that garment, from a certain collection, is not new, it is, through wear, still relevant in the now.  Being relevant now arguably makes the idea new, for by choosing to wear that garment again and again, the wearer provides an additional layer of meaning and new thought to that garment with each wearing.  Whilst it is easy to think of collections in isolation, within specific frames of time, the wearer is as much a part of the history of a collection as the designer.

Fall 2003 Collection

The Fall 2003 collection by Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme is most certainly not a new collection, and yet its relevance is such that I consider it as being part of now, rather than consigned to history and the realm of costume.  Being able to track down individual pieces from the collection would inevitably be difficult some several years down the line, and yet I do wonder about the people who are lucky enough to own pieces from this collection.  Standing as one of Slimane's more unique collections, I wonder how they view the pieces in terms of Dior Homme under Slimane's heading, let alone Dior Homme since, under Kris Van Assche.  I am absolutely fascinated by the subsequent history of such pieces and how the wardrobes around them, that is to say the wardrobes of the people who bought a piece from this collection and still wear it, have evolved since this collection was shown.

Considered within Slimane's oeuvre, and here hindsight is a luxury, the collection is very interesting.  The now commonplace, (arguably aged?), skinny rocker look that Slimane so strongly boasted season after season is here lost to a darker, more edgier aesthetic.  From the black skinny ties and white shirts of the Fall 2002 collection, to the blazers and skinny jeans of the Spring 2005 collection, Slimane's work can be described in passing as rather clean cut.  Yet here the draping, the stacked leathers, and the play on textures, stand in stark contrast to his otherwise repetitive efforts to define his silhouette and aesthetic.  Considered along Van Assche's work it takes on a whole new meaning. 

The collection prior to this, that is to say the Spring 2003 collection, featured long draped scarves, whilst the Spring 2004 collection had a certain dark glam appeal to it.  This collection settled right between the two combined both elements in what I feel was a very successful manner.  Considering the collections from a purely visual perspective, one would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the Fall 2003 collection actually came after the Spring 2004, however I suppose it better reflects the individuality of Slimane's designs and inspirations.

I look at these photographs and think of Robert Geller or Ann Demeulemeester, and it is a turn in Dior Homme's history that I rather wish would be reimagined for the now.  Yet I do wonder how I will come to view this collection within the history of Dior Homme in years to come.  Perhaps once Kris Van Assche is also long gone the visual evolution of the Dior Homme man will be even more fascinating to trace.

Currently playing: Free Chilly - Gemstones 



  1. Don't forget Tom Ford!

    We also need to include the fact that these designers are established and therefore have the luxury of being able to pursue other interests openly. There's no doubt that each of these designers you've named are gods in their own right. They've had the history to perfect their art and create beautiful collections. I'm still nostalgic for Tom Ford's YSL days - god how I wish I'd had the foresight to sell my soul and my savings for something from that gypsy collection.

  2. Also, I should mention that Karl was the one who said that he lost 200 lbs. in order to wear Hedi Slimane's suits. The Kaiser's stamp of approvals says much about Hedi's design capabilities.

  3. So dark and interesting. Only thing I don't like is how some of it hangs too far down. I don't get the practical part of it. You know, that item getting sucked into something on the street, or stomped on, pulled at. Just not sure have savey they'd really make it on the street. Pretty though, it a dark pirate kind of way.

  4. Oh, its making me think of winter..already.

  5. Very impressed with your commentary.

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  7. I feel like I've seen KVA do similar coats to the one Carine son's is wearing. This is beautiful, noturnal elegance.

    Even though they had differences, Hedi Slimane was similar to Tom Ford in the sense that they both were very good at creating this character and this world. People wanted to be the Tom's Gucci girl and men (and women too) wanted to be a Dior homme, and they were willing to buy into this fantasy. Even as another commenter mentioned, that Karl Lagerfeld said at the time: "that his only goal in life was to fit into a dior homme jacket."

  8. Beautiful pieces, but not the classic kind that will transcend time as well as the white shirt and neckties of 2002.