When not creating fashion for Saint Laurent, creative director Hedi Slimane can be found with the wild young things of the West Coast rock scene. The following portraits reflect his deep devotion to the sonic underworld.
Everyone knows that music is a crucial element in the fashion world. But for Hedi Slimane – the mercurial creative director of Saint Laurent – music is something much more. It’s his oxygen, the elixir of life, a reason to exist. His memories of music, like his love for music, go as far back as the memories of himself. (As a child he listened endlessly to David Bowie in his Parisian bedroom while obsessively pouring over the latest LP covers.) Even today, as one of the greatest living fashion designers, music remains his touchstone inspiration when creating new designs and runway shows. But there is another side to Slimane, the devotee side, which may be unfamiliar to many fashion followers. For almost a decade, this quiet, unobtrusive designer has been faithfully documenting the underground world of California’s punk, surf and psychedelic rock scenes as a reportage photographer. And Slimane is one hell of a photographer.
Part Robert Frank, part Larry Clark, Slimane’s stark, unblinking black and white portraits of West Coast bands capture many things – blood, sweat, adrenaline – but most of all they capture that gloriously fleeting moment when raw youth stands up to the adult world with nothing but a guitar, drums and bass. The following images represent Slimane at his most intimate. This is not the bright star of fashion on full display, but a deeply devoted photographer with hard-won access to a counterculture world. Looking at these images you can see clearly that the rock kids trust him. They know where he’s coming from. After all, he’s one of them. It’s not for nothing that Slimane’s latest Saint Laurent collection, lovingly titled Psych Rock, is already the coolest of the season, with everyone from millionaire rock stars to daily consumers tripping over themselves to be the first to wear his new clothes. But the inspiration for that coolness begins right here, in these seductively intimate portraits of lost youth cast under a spell of pure rock n’ roll…
Photographer:: Richard Hall