When Yves St. Laurent died yesterday, we lost not only one of the world’s greatest designers, but also one of the world’s most visionary and honest business leaders.
His passion for his work, for his designs, and for the people for whom he created clothes and accessories won over greed and the mad thirst for double-digit growth that so many companies are plagued with today. When other couture houses tried to impress with gimmicks and flash, he stayed true to simple lines and understated elegance. While other couture houses obsessed about fashion, he simply focused on style.
Yves St. Laurent never sold out. You won’t find the YSL logo on cheap sunglasses or bullshit leather iPod cases. Yves St. Laurent refused to let his house fall into the massclusivity trap.
Massclusivity (mass exclusivity) is what you get when a premium brand like Gucci or Louis Vuitton starts making cheap crap to cater to a younger, broader and usually less affluent audience. This can seriously lower the value and relevance of a brand, but it makes sense if you’re looking to cash in on your brand’s earning potential. Once you capture market share and get into the malls and less exclusive retail properties though, it’s tough to get your cream-of-the-crop status back. That’s difference between houses like Dior, Yves St. Laurent, Hermes and Cartier vs. Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Ralph Lauren and now Gucci.
A lesser designer would have plunged Dior into chaos back in the sixties, and the Yves St. Laurent brand would have never turned into the cornerstone of occidental style that it is today.
A lesser man would have turned Yves St. Laurent into a Dillard’s or Macy’s brand. He understood the value of a strong brand. He understood the value of absolute quality. He understood the value of staying true to his vision and ideals.
He was one of the greats.