The secrets behind the controversial strategy at YSL

By moving the YSL creative studio to Los Angeles, slashing the ”Yves” from the brand, distancing himself from the YSL fragrances to emphasize brands often have no saying  in creating and marketing which is done by giant cosmetics companies who hold the licensing rights, to ultimately driving the creative direction to one that barely has any references to Yves Saint Laurent. A fashion critic recently said Yves Saint Laurent was into reading Proust and he was not into rock’n'role.

But what if Slimane is actually imaging a young Yves Saint Laurent born in 1968 (Hedi Slimane birth year) working for his own brand owned by the world’s third largest luxury group?

Despite the huge revenues from the licensing of fragrances and beauty products, would Yves Saint Laurent be content with the today’s excessive marketing? He would not be happy but he would certainly be content as Hedi Slimane was when he said he has nothing to do with the ad campaign of the latest YSL fragrance.

Should Yves Saint Laurent be 46 years old today, would he create a campaign with a street-scouted 16 years artist instead of Catherine Deneuve? Most likely he would.

I also wonder why Stefano Pilati’s tenure at Yves Saint Laurent was so much criticized by Pierre Berge, the long time partner of Saint Laurent and founder of the eponymous fashion house, even if his collections were ”politically correct” and ”in line” with Yves Saint Laurent 60s. Many, including Anna Wintour considered Pilati’s work at Yves Saint Laurent as lackluster and mediocre, lacking the DNA of the brand.

I do not recall Pierre Berge questioning Slimane’s controversial decisions, instead he seems to be sitting on the sideline and expecting to be surprised with each and every move. He also understood why Slimane would not go for TETU, Europe’s largest gay magazine owned and run by Pierre Berge. Why? Because TETU is socially driven, therefore trendsetter DAZED magazine was the perfect choice.

Slimane re-introduced the mono-gram luxury travel line and completely re-invented the store concept. Should one of interested, google a new store and all you would find would be empty shelves in an abstract rendering – a brilliant teasing campaign, which no other brand dared to introduce so far.

So why has Saint Laurent been the best performing brand within the Kering Group, outpacing, by far, giant ”sister”’ brand GUCCI? Because Francois Pinault understood Slimane was the best choice to bring back the power of the Saint Laurent brand, as it once was. Beyond marketing techniques, the strength of a brand lies in its power to refute the rules, innovate and create.

Oliver Petcu in Paris