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Pierre Bergé Praises Hedi Slimane’s Plan for Saint Laurent

French house confirms plan to restore “original branding” of rtw launch.

Yves Saint Laurent and a model in front of the first Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique in Paris.

PARIS — If the move of Yves Saint Laurent’s creative studio from Paris to Los Angeles seems heretical to the notion of French fashion, think again. The biggest supporter of Hedi Slimane’s surprising move is none other than the late couturier’s outspoken partner, Pierre Bergé.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Not only that, Bergé told WWD he’s delighted with other changes Slimane is making, many of those designed to bring the house back to many of its iconic roots.

Eager to recapture the energy surrounding the mythic designer’s thrust into ready-to-wear in 1966, Slimane, the house’s new creative steward, plans to use the same fonts, and similar nomenclature, from that era.

Confirming a report in WWD on Thursday that Slimane would alter the house’s graphic identity, a YSL spokeswoman provided additional details. She said Slimane would return the house to its “original branding,” thereby “restoring the house to its truth, purity and essence — and taking it into a new era” while “respecting the original principles and ideals.”

The rtw line, originally called Saint Laurent Rive Gauche when the first boutique opened at 21 Rue de Tournon on Sept. 26, 1966, will now be called Saint Laurent Paris.

The Yves Saint Laurent name will continue to be used for “institutional” purposes, and the YSL logo — a French cultural icon and a feature on an array of products, from shoes to lipsticks — will remain intact in its original version.

The logo, by the French graphic designer known as Cassandre, was created in 1961, the same year Yves Saint Laurent and Bergé founded the couture house.

The retro branding is expected to be introduced in the coming months, and should be in place by the time Slimane’s first designs for Saint Laurent, for the spring 2013 season, hit the selling floor.

YSL in March appointed Slimane to succeed Stefano Pilati at the creative helm, giving him “total creative responsibility for the brand image and all its collections.”

Reached on Thursday, Bergé applauded the back-to-the-roots move, and said Slimane had telephoned him several weeks ago to apprise him of the changes.

“I’m very happy. Anything that makes the house more Saint Laurent is welcome,” he told WWD. “I am happy that Stefano Pilati is gone, just as I was happy when Tom Ford left.”

The business titan also rallied behind Slimane’s decision to base YSL’s creative studios in Los Angeles, where he has lived and pursued a career in commercial photography since 2007.

In Bergé’s estimation, if a designer is to be in tune with his times and the street, he is better off studying Melrose Avenue than Avenue Montaigne in Paris. He argued Americans are more in tune with modern lifestyles, while the French are still in thrall to a “démodé” fashion system based on couture and mythic “chic Parisians.”

“The creative studio is in a designer’s head, it resides within the person,” he said. “Hedi lives in Los Angeles. He should be left to do fashion in a city he likes.”

Slimane is also said to be working on new store concepts for YSL.

His first designs — a women’s resort collection and a men’s spring 2013 collection — are to be unveiled to buyers only. The showroom is scheduled for June 28 to July 4 at the Grand Palais here, as reported.

The designer, who electrified men’s fashion during his seven-year stint at Dior Homme, came to international attention as the designer of YSL Rive Gauche Homme in the late Nineties.

Although he has remained mum on his intentions for the new YSL, Slimane seems to be applying the same exacting, 360-degree approach to the brand that he displayed during his Dior Homme years.

Slimane intends to make his first major fashion statement at the storied house this fall when he presents the women’s spring collection on the runway during Paris Fashion Week, scheduled for Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.

Rumor has it he has already begun casting for the show, and has secured exclusives on some models. He is also widely expected to photograph YSL campaigns himself.