Saint Laurent's Slimane Is Latest Designer to Leave Runway

  • Exit raises questions about Kering label's future growth
  • Departure adds to slew of creative changes across fashion

There are more departures than arrivals on fashion runways these days.

Saint Laurent Creative Director Hedi Slimane became the latest top designer to quit a leading fashion house, adding to a slew of management shuffles across the sector and dealing a blow to Kering SA’s fastest-growing brand.

Hedi Slimane
Hedi Slimane
Photographer: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Slimane, 47, ended a four-year mission to re-position the couture house, Paris-based Kering said in a statement Friday. The company said it will announce a new creative team for the 55-year-old brand “in due course.” Kering’s stock closed down 2.1 percent.

Slimane’s exit follows departures by fellow creative directors Massimiliano Giornetti at Salvatore Ferragamo SpA and Raf Simons at Christian Dior SE, both of whom have yet to be replaced. Kering has now changed leadership at three of its four biggest luxury brands in the past year, as well as at suitmaker Brioni. The departures come as luxury demand slows and companies such as Burberry Group Plc seek to speed up delivery, making collections available for purchase immediately afterward.

“The days are gone of people being at labels for 25 years,” said Jane Kellock, founder of trend consultant Unique Style Platform. “The Internet means consumers want change and are constantly looking for something new.”

Brisk Sales

Slimane’s successor will be challenged to maintain the label’s brisk sales, which grew more than 20 percent a year during his tenure. The designer transformed Saint Laurent from a brand that lived off the reputation of its namesake founder into one of the fashion industry’s hottest labels, targeting a younger audience with 1,150-euro ($1,300) bags and 3,200-euro leather jackets. He also stamped his authority by moving the design studio to Los Angeles from Paris and dropping “Yves” from the label’s name in 2012.

Kering has replaced creative directors at Gucci and Balenciaga in the past year, and last week named a new one at Brioni who has no formal training or experience as a designer. Anthony Vaccarello, the creative director of Gianni Versace’s Versus label, has been linked with the role, though Kering declined to comment on speculation.

“We expect Kering management to have a credible contingency plan and be in a position to announce his successor soon,” Thomas Chauvet, an analyst at Citigroup, said of Slimane.

Slimane worked as Saint Laurent’s menswear designer at the end of the 1990s, before leaving to join Dior Homme. He later left fashion design for five years to concentrate on photography. Yves Saint Laurent was founded in 1961.

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