Despite being out of the design limelight for some time, former Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane is arguably one of the greatest designers of our generation. In a recent interview with Style.com, the discussion is intense and revolves some heavy subject matter including the Internet’s participation in shaping and forming the current fashion landscape. In addition, some of the most interesting topics include Slimane’s insights on the true death of print, fast fashion and the pressures designers face in the present day. Excerpts of the interview can be seen below while the full interview is presented at Style.com.
How do you think technology—tweeting, blogging, social media, etc.—has affected fashion? For better or worse?
It has affected different aspects of fashion tremendously. From commentary to fashion design, communication, and distribution.
The fashion Internet community is like a global digital agora tweeting passions and opinions. Anyone knows better, and each one is a self-made critic.
This is a fascinating idea, as I always favored amateurism (”the one that loves”) over professionalism, attraction over experience. It obliges anyone in the industry to think in a fresher way.
Of course, it is hard to say if any “authority,” someone like Suzy Menkes, might one day come out and use digital means to lead with integrity, enough background, outside of any conflict of interest.
On a design perspective, it has allowed any young designer or indie brand to get an instant audience, if used with wit and invention.
I am not quite sure of the future of retail as we know it. This is a truly important thing, maybe the most important one, as it might already mean there is nothing standing between the design and an audience/consumer.
Finally, the better and the worse have always been part of fashion, with the Internet only magnifying it and creating a joyful and noisy digital chaos.
The bottom line is that any note can create music. It is only a matter of taste.
Can you envision a day when digital media will replace magazines?
I totally do, and I don’t see it as a bad thing. You don’t fight but embrace a natural evolution, really, and try to figure out how it would reveal new creative fields within global access, and multimedia features.
The Web site magazine will come way before the print version in the next decade. I don’t see any way around it, really. With the rise of the Internet, fashion did become part of the global entertainment industry in the last ten years, and will follow the digital evolution of the music or film industry.
Besides, immediacy is better than old news. The “manufacturing” process of a magazine is far too long for this world, for the definition and idea that fashion is about “right now.” I guess it is more about “right now” now than ever before.
That said, fashion magazines, glossy magazines still use their Web sites for daily news and information only. I trust it might be interesting to invest strongly in art direction, besides hiring top editors, top photographers, and top models, which is hardly enough for Internet pages.
Quite certainly, the Web sites of the magazines will have to move away from the “blog” format and create an inspiring, tight template for their photo productions or editorial content, a Web site that has the [same feeling of] luxury and glamour as flipping through a heavy glossy magazine.
It is interesting to think how someone like Alexey Brodovitch would have investigated this medium to create typography and layouts in motion. It is now an open field for a new generation of editors in chief and art directors.
I hear one of the reasons for the lack of investment is advertising, although I trust advertising would follow immediately, if provided a reassuring image template for their costly ads.
I finally believe the printed magazine will then become a collector’s item, and hopefully a reference to be kept preciously.
Therefore, the commercial issues of advertising credits might move toward the Internet, [while] the most inspiring fashion stories could become exclusive to the printed collectible version
Between menswear and womenswear, resort, pre-fall, and ready-to-wear, some designers are designing eight or more collections a year. Is it possible for a designer to be creative under those circumstances?
Designers end up needing a full-blast studio for this sort of thing, which is totally absurd. I also don’t understand what the hell people do with all those clothes. Less would be better, and shorter collections. Again, e-commerce might change this costly and overwhelming fashion avalanche.
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.
Is the commercial pressure on designers today too great?
I don’t know about this. I am concerned about the relevance of strategy.
Selling is a positive thing. Of course, the overhead of many global houses is so huge that the pressure is great. I don’t mind the pressure at all; it is stimulating. I mind the lack of a long-term vision, and the lack of sense. It has to make sense, no matter the size of a fashion house.
What effect do you think the rise of fast fashion has had on consumers and on high fashion?
The issue was pretty much when at the beginning of the 2000’s high fashion started to embrace (no question they had to) globalization. High fashion started to offer access to luxury and creativity. In a way it was dangerously closing the gap with fast fashion, which was incredibly effective in mimicking the style and standards (stores, merchandising, ad campaigns) of high fashion. It is mathematical. More means less rarity and less quality. This leads to the visual chaos of not exactly knowing what is what, if you forget your contact lenses and can’t read the label.
Would you have any interest in collaborating with a fast-fashion retailer?
I have obviously had a few discussions, like any of us, but I don’t really like the “capsule” collection trick, which I won’t do. There is something terribly cheap about it. This validation is somehow dodgy, since fast fashion, with few exceptions, is quietly ripping off all it can, including brands that are too small to defend themselves.
I would not mind and would be open to some evolution of fast retail, if it was aiming for an original design and a long-term commitment. It would become something else. Something like Apple computers, for instance, where design meets a wide audience through innovation and sense. In the future, fast-fashion retailers might change their philosophy toward real efforts to create a world of their own. One can only hope.
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