DRAMA AT DIOR

Fashionistas relish rumor over top job

by Martin Webb

Paris last week was rife with gossip over whether the menswear world’s leading light, Hedi Slimane, was about to exit hyper-cool brand Dior Homme when his contract expires at the end of the month.

To stay, the Frenchman was reportedly demanding an annual fee of $2.5 million — as well as full rights to his own brand name.

But with the launch of his own fashion house apparently on the cards, and the names of successors already on the lips of those in the know, tensions were running high as the fashion world’s glitterati gathered on the last day of the Menswear Collections for what might be Slimane’s last tour de force for Dior Homme.

Gushing praise

The collection of wasp-waisted tailoring spruced up with cummerbunds, kimono ties, intricate beading and flashy buttons was typical of the stylemeister’s fusion of minimalist sartorial elegance and couture-inspired handiwork, at which the house of Dior excels. Praise for the line, as ever, was gushing.

When Dior announced that Slimane would be heading up its new menswear line five years ago, he was instantly catapulted to superstardom. Since then, under his regime, Dior Homme is credited with having slimmed down the male silhouette — its super-skinny designs having superceded the then-prevailing “beefcake look.”

Slimane, 37, has also gained fame as an arbiter of taste; an imperious aesthetic authority. But besides his effusively praised work dressing metrosexuals the world over, he has turned his hand to photography, video art, furniture design and even architecture — all to critical and popular acclaim.

Last year, Slimane’s photo book titled “London: Birth of a Cult” documented a year in the drug-addled life of former Libertines vocalist Pete Doherty, known for his turbulent relationship with supermodel Kate Moss.

Throughout his tenure at the top of the fashion tree, the rake-thin designer’s preoccupation with rock music has closely informed his collections, inspired variously by Seattle’s grunge scene, David Bowie’s “Thin White Duke” phase and Doherty’s wasted Mod look.

While this season’s collection from Slimane less clearly drew on any one particular musical movement, its stripped-down, androgynous version of the safari jackets so beloved by Yves Saint Laurent perhaps point to where Slimane might be headed if negotiations with Dior break down.

After all, the Paris-born designer began his career at YSL, only quitting after Tom Ford joined the line and a much-publicized personality clash ensued — a superspat that ended with Slimane disparaging the Texan famed for turning around the Gucci brand as “not a designer . . . just a marketing man.”

From here on, though, wherever Slimane opts to ply his trade in the catty, conspiratorial world of men’s fashion, he’ll surely remain not just one of its premier talking points — but its trendsetting force majeure, too.

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