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PARIS — Slimane is taking aim at T-shirts that parody the luxury brand he helms.

This story first appeared in the October 2, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to sources, Yves Saint Laurent is taking legal action against several makers of T-shirts bearing the “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” slogan.

The French fashion house also has severed a 15-year business relationship with Paris retailer Colette for having carried them.

Sarah Andelman, Colette’s creative director, purchasing manager and the daughter of store founder Colette Rousseau, is crying foul, saying multibrand retailers should be free to select their assortments.

She said Slimane and YSL have retaliated by canceling her spring and resort orders totaling 101,191 euros at wholesale, or $136,690 at current exchange. “We have been excommunicated,” an incredulous and emotional Andelman told WWD Tuesday morning at her store, a wall of Saint Laurent handbags displayed behind her. “There is no respect for all the work we did in the past.”

YSL had no comment, stressing that its dealings with retailers are confidential.

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Andelman, who rarely shares figures, detailed that since 1998 Colette has placed wholesale orders for YSL fashions valued at 2.9 million euros, or $3.9 million at current exchange, including collections by Slimane during his first stint designing men’s wear at the fashion house in the Nineties.

The landmark Rue Saint Honoré retailer — a pioneering “concept store” showcasing fashion, beauty products, design objects and books alongside a gallery and restaurant — has also hosted YSL exhibitions and stocked selections through the Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati eras.

Colette more than tripled its YSL buy for Slimane’s hotly anticipated debut collection for spring 2013, and has already sold 220 of the 564 units it is stocking for the current fall season, Andelman said.

The retailer began selling the YSL parody T-shirts in its ground-floor streetwear department, and online, last March. It has also carried ones with the slogans “Céline Dion” and “Homiés,” a riff on Hermès. In recent years, it stocked “Karl Who?” and other T-shirts referring to Karl Lagerfeld, a devoted Colette shopper.

The popularity of the T-shirts is indicative of the pervasive appeal of luxury brands and the ongoing dialogue between high fashion and youth culture, while raising legal issues around trademark protection.

The “Ain’t Laurent” T-shirt, retailing for about 42 euros, or $56.75, winks to Slimane’s decision last year to change the name of YSL collections and stores to Saint Laurent. At the time, Slimane said he wished to recapture the impulses that inspired the founder to launch the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche ready-to-wear line in 1966 — among them youth, freedom and modernity.

Andelman said she decided to go on the record about the break with YSL to call attention to the inordinate degree of control some brands exert on independent retailers. “Should we accept fashion dictatorship?” she asked.

Without naming them, Andelman said other “big brands” are becoming similarly heavy-handed with Colette, asking her to remove Instagram photos of their products, for example.

Andelman said YSL first contacted her in mid-September to voice displeasure about Colette selling the Saint Laurent parody T-shirts, and asked her to remove them immediately from its Web site.

Andelman agreed, while noting she would off-load remaining stock in the brick-and-mortar store, which she said she accomplished by Sept. 21. Then YSL canceled orders and its new chief executive officer, Francesca Bellettini, dispatched a letter to Andelman alleging the retailer seriously damaged the YSL brand and confirming the end of their business relationship.

Given that other prominent multibrand retailers in Europe had sold YSL parody T-shirts, and are still able to stock Saint Laurent, Andelman said Colette has been unfairly singled out.

“I am really shocked because it’s just a T-shirt,” she said. “There’s no doubt that it’s not a Saint Laurent product.”

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