The Yves Saint Lauren name change uproar has finally been addressed in detail by Hedi Slimane, who told Vanity Fair that it was “interesting to see how much reaction this retro branding has created.”
Slimane says the branding was a considered choice that revisits the ‘democratisation’ of fashion Saint Laurent was aiming for when he created the prêt-à-porter brand in 1966.
Clearly, this period of the history of the house was not well-known, which I trust was a surprise for Pierre Bergé [Saint Laurent's long-term partner]. I went back to 1966 – just before the events of 1968 [when 11 million workers revolted against the conservative politics of then-President Charles de Gaulle - the biggest general strike in history], but the awakening of youth was in the air, and Yves Saint Laurent wanted to dissociate himself from the clientele of haute couture and embrace this new generation.
So finally the public is better enlightened as to the reasoning behind the retro branding: Slimane wants to tap into youth culture, into rebellious new values and liveliness of the kind that shaped the 1960s.
Everything new, is old again.
The most fascinating though, given the above quote and the delay in addressing consumer concerns, is that the uproar over the change apparently came as a surprise to the brand. The fashion consumer buys into brands very deeply: change is therefore a precarious move, and any luxury fashion house should know this. Any retailer at all should know this. YSL clearly didn’t learn any lessons from the famously disastrous GAP rebranding.