We often read about the wars between fashion houses (think of Louis Vuitton and Hermès), but it’s not often that we read about two designers looking to lock horns.
The two designers who have taken up many headlines this year have been Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane. We like to call them the two titans on the block with a lot of talent between them….
Simons, 44, was appointed as the creative head at Dior and what big shoes he had to fill following the ousted John Galliano.
Slimane, also 44, was announced creative boss at Yves Saint Laurent, who controversially removed the Yves from the brand’s title.
The New York Times reports that the duel between the two titanic designers is the story of the season.
The fact that the two maisons are owned by rival luxury conglomerates — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for Dior and PPR for YSL — only adds to the sense that this in an epic contest.
The designers each take on a legendary heritage and a mature brand where they literally have to fill big shoes: The accessories, including footwear and handbags, have been the cash cows for the last decade, far more profitable than clothing.
Each house is a legend — yet financially lags behind another big brand within its group: Louis Vuitton at Dior and Gucci for Saint Laurent, but with the two designers entrenched into their respective brands, a lot is at stake.
History also finds links that intertwine the two Paris couture houses. Yves Saint Laurent started his career at Dior. He took over the house in 1957 at age 21 when Christian Dior died of a heart attack.
Mr. Slimane started at Saint Laurent. He was chosen by Pierre Bergé, Mr. Saint Laurent’s partner, to work on the men’s wear line in 1996, where he first developed the pencil-slim silhouette. It was made famous during his seven-year tenure at Dior Homme, and has dominated men’s wear in the new millennium.
Is this such a stand off after all, given that both designers are linked to men’s wear; both work as fashion purists, rather than decorators; and both are fascinated with youth culture and contemporary art?
Fashion has always thrived on the clash of titanic opposites. A famous sketch by Jean Cocteau in 1926 shows an elaborate outfit from Paul Poiret slinking off as the clean silhouette of Coco Chanel dominates the foreground.
Not much later, Mademoiselle Chanel was trading insults with Elsa Schiaparelli, whose whimsical and witty designs were the antithesis of the Coco graphic rigor.
The Christian Dior florid New Look, giving women back their curves and flounces after the war years, was pitted against the lofty sculptures of Balenciaga.
In more recent times, this ying and yang produced in the 1980s Azzedine Alaïa’s curvaceous vision of the sensual woman set against the flat-plane clothes of the Japanese school, led by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.
At the same time, in Italy, Giorgio Armani, a revolutionary men’s wear designer who developed a linear women’s look, went up against Gianni Versace. The two designers had such clearly defined images that it was clean, pale beige against vivid, chaotic color, straight line tailoring versus curvy clothes, and flat shoes facing off stilettoes.
We await to see how this unfolds and in the meantime, we will try and get ourselves a front-row seat.
By Cassandra Murnieks
Image credit: shapeyourlifeboxing.com
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