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Yves Saint Laurent – What’s in a name?

Zeitgeist has written before about the luxury goods company Yves Saint Laurent. Then-creative director Stefano Pilati opined, “[I]t’s such a contradiction, because we want to be luxurious and have 300 shops all around the world, but you can’t be luxurious with 300 shops around the world”. It’s always difficult to introduce dramatic innovation to a company that conversely prides itself on provenance and tradition. In trying to adhere to past methods, what starts out as a respectful outlook can lead to stagnation. It was evidently with this in mind that incoming designer for YSL, Hedi Slimane, has decided not only to personally redesign all retail environments – as he did at his last post at Dior Homme – but also to change the name of the brand itself, to Saint Laurent Paris.

It is not the first time a luxury label has grappled with a name change. “Gianni Versace” was similarly shortened some years ago to “Versace”; more recently Dolce & Gabbana’s more affordable “D&G” brand, announced it is to be shuttered due to consumer confusion over nomenclature. YSL’s name change is actually a return to tradition of course, as the brand used to be known as Saint Laurent Paris. This news was overlooked though on Twitter, where a lot of the knee-jerk reactions to the news were far from positive. The move will allow Slimane to stamp a real sense of authority on the brand, much as he did while at Dior, where many objective observers rightly claim he revolutionised contemporary menswear.

Most importantly though, the renaming should help move the brand away from the vestiges of any remaining cheap associations (evinced by the above person wearing a YSL polo shirt). In the 1980s, the company sold licenses to use its name to over 200 different companies, which led to poor-quality clothing being produced under the YSL marque, and a significant erosion of brand equity. A similar situation befell ’70s doyen Halston. Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent Paris has the opportunity to breathe new life into the company, while still maintaining a distinct sense of style that the eponymous designer would have been proud of.

All about Yves

August 20, 2010 2 comments

The meaning of luxury, according to YSL creative director Stefano Pilati, has been somewhat lost of late, or at least transformed, as designer brands have jumped on the globalisation bandwagon, and now have to deal with the ramifications of the abundance / scarcity dichotomy.

“[I]t’s such a contradiction, because we want to be luxurious and have 300 shops all around the world, but you can’t be luxurious with 300 shops around the world.”

It’s an interesting comment, and one that certainly rings true. So many brands – in and out of the fashion world – designate themselves as being in the ‘luxury’ or ‘premium’ sector, it’s hard to know where the market starts and ends; it certainly helps dilute the meaning of words like ‘luxury’. However, with luxury groups aplenty recording impressive financial results of late, one would be hard pushed to see LVMH or PPR making any drastic redefinitions of what luxury is. You can read the rest of his comments to the fashion hipster’s bible, AnOther, here. Zeitgeist, for purely work-related reasons of course, is off to Paris at the weekend for the final days of the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Petit Palais. Can’t wait.