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NEW YORK — When Hedi Slimane was 14, he tried to teach himself to play the drums on a percussion set at home. “I lived in an apartment and my neighbors went crazy,” the Dior Homme designer says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he’s directing the fall ad campaign. “It was so noisy I had to get rid of it.”
Twenty years later, he’s still learning, but now he uses an electronic set with headphones. “It’s not that I intend to play [professionally]. I’ve just always loved drums,” Slimane explains. “But I just don’t have so much time to do these things.”
Slimane’s a busy guy. This week, he will be in Manhattan to see the opening Sunday at P.S. 1 of “Hedi Slimane: Berlin,” a collection of photographs from his book published by D.A.P. in January. While he’s in the neighborhood, he’ll celebrate the new Dior Homme store on 57th Street, which opened last month, with a party Wednesday night in West Chelsea, where Sonic Youth will perform.
“Taking pictures has always been a natural way to capture my daily routine,” says Slimane, who discovered cameras before the drums, at age 11, “though the pictures I took then are not so different from the ones I’m taking now.”
The installation at P.S. 1, which was previously in Berlin and will soon move to Tokyo, comprises a white cube in a big white space upon which Slimane’s images of opaque architectural interiors, bleak environmental shots and young, shirtless men are projected in slow motion. “It’s like a cinematographic effect,” Slimane explains. The images illustrate the counterculture he fell upon in Berlin during a residency at the Kunst-Werk Studio from 2000 to 2002, as he shuttled back and forth from Paris. “I was a stranger documenting the city.”
Slimane has lately been dressing a lot of rockers and his interest in music (and the fact that he has a lot of friends in the industry) led him to a new project: a book of photographs called “Stage” that D.A.P. will release this fall. (He also recently photographed the latest album cover for the French band Phoenix, which Sofia Coppola featured on the “Lost in Translation” soundtrack.) For three years, he’s followed “lots of different generations” of bands, from The Thrills and The Kills and The Libertines to David Bowie and Blondie.
“It’s a very protective world. It’s very warm,” says Slimane, who has been listening to The Datsuns and the White Stripes lately. “I’m totally fascinated by the whole technology and the devices and the multiplications of the music, from the smallest band to the biggest rock star. It’s always the same.
“But I’m also interested in privacy and security, and what that says about a person,” he continues. “Rock stars will always have teddy bears and things to protect them. To go on stage is almost a sacrificial act.”
As for delving into fashion photography like his friend, Karl Lagerfeld, Slimane isn’t interested. “It’s such a difficult exercise, it’s a very particular sensibility,” he reasons. “I like to direct a campaign, I like to design it, but it’s really very good to have someone [with his own] point of view on your clothes. When the show is done, it doesn’t belong to me anymore.”
The New York Dior Homme store will only be the third freestanding unit in the world (after Milan and Tokyo; in Paris, it splits real estate with the Dior women’s shop on Avenue Montaigne) and each of the spaces is completely different — the New York store being especially narrow and about “elongation.”
“I don’t really like to repeat the formula like a chain store,” Slimane says. “I don’t want to be spreading the same message everywhere. It’s a bit corny to do that. It’s very important to keep a certain privacy to it, a certain exclusivity by creating different spaces, by making sure that it is very site specific.” He points out that a lot of the collection is done by hand, so in and of itself, it has “a certain rarity.”
Slimane’s first big party in New York will surely be just as exclusive, and he warns invited guests, “Don’t come late” unless they want to encounter a mad crush at the door. “It’s just fun to do parties. Everybody wants to go to a nice party, starting with me.”