Hedi Slimane Tortella was born and raised in central Paris, France. Young Hedi was often found in a darkroom exposing his photos, making clothes for his friends, or loitering around Le Monde’s headquarters. He is a soft-spoken, lanky man who does not engage in snobbery or indulgence, unlike his creative counterparts. Hedi once stated,” I don’t talk about this much, but I was an intern at Martin Margiela when I was a kid, at almost the beginning of the house. And for me he was the original one. For me, he invented integrity.” After this internship ended, he worked on a centenary project for Louis Vuitton, which illustrated great creative prowess and got the attention of Pierre Bergé. He appointed Slimane as ready-to-wear director of menswear for Yves Saint Laurent in 1996. He later became artistic director, and his Autumn / Winter 2000 collection “Black Tie” was the first public unveiling of Hedi’s strictly slender vision. The first time in menswear history that slim dinner suits were desirable to both men and women, which has later been described as “modernist grunge.”

Retrospectively he has been accredited as the fashion designer who made “skinny cool again.” He brought his signature ’80s glam look to large fashion houses, and it has endured. He led a revolution of masculinity, as the media would apropos “clothing for heroes.” This look was primarily modeled after the pop culture icons that defined his youth, such as David Bowie and Mick Jagger. The search for new inspiration is always imperative to Slimane’s practice, as he continually burrows himself into the deepest corners of underground music scenes worldwide to photograph the urbanites within.

His obsession with photography began in his teenage years when he would go model hunting. This scouting process has been routine for Hedi at this point, and he now refers to this practice as “Boy Safari.” It was apparent early on that he had a knack for casting slim “fragile” boys (much like himself) and chic yet dominant women. When they model his garments, there is a palpable aura of intense masculinity that transcends gender roles. This is what separates him from other designers. This makes his work consistently in touch with the youth culture of now and the years to come.

Hedi has always had authority issues and is known to abandon ship if his demands aren’t meant. He iconically left YSL shockingly early in his career because his new contract stipulated that he needed to report design briefs to creative director Tom Ford; Hedi’s response was simply “Reporting to Tom is not going to happen.” Since then, he has moved from Dior Homme, back to Saint Laurent, and now is at Celine’s helm. He has made controversial changes to branding and company policy at all these houses, such as recently removing the accent from” Céline.” Although Hedi notoriously works on impulse, he demands complete control of the house he is at the helm. He does more than just design garments under notoriously strict code. Hedi must dictate the entire house’s aesthetic to illustrate his vision truly. He requires creative control over the campaign, runway location, music, model casting at infinitum.

Written by Riley McCarthy


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