Today, Lagerfeld shoots campaigns in his studio on the Rue de Lille in Paris and occasionally on location, for Chanel and Fendi—all brands for which he designs. He was also responsible for the Dior Homme ads after 2007—when Slimane left his post there—until now. (The latest campaign was shot by Willy Vanderperre.) In addition, Lagerfeld regularly contributes to magazines including V and Harper’s Bazaar. “Taking pictures opens up your vision,” he says. “It’s good to work with other people. If not, you’re isolated in an ivory tower, and that is very unhealthy.”
Slimane, who was named creative director of Saint Laurent last March, has also shot for major fashion publications, and his images have been published in books and exhibited in art galleries. As a young man, he took photography classes while studying political science, in the hope of becoming a reporter; that ambition ran alongside an obsession with rock-music culture that remains central to his work.
Slimane’s subjects have included Robert De Niro and Gore Vidal, but his chronicling of musicians and disaffected youth—Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, the list goes on—is more well known. In 2009, he photographed the Prada men’s campaign using Claude and Louis Simonon, the sons of the Clash bassist Paul Simonon, as models. His first campaign for Saint Laurent featured former Girls frontman Christopher Owens, Tom Burke, from Citizens!, and the model Kati Nescher. For spring, he shot the female model Saskia de Brauw (attired as an entirely convincing male teenager) and the musician Beck for Saint Laurent men’s wear, as well as models Julia Nobis and Edie Campbell for the women’s line. The Saint Laurent website is regularly updated with Slimane’s photographic work, and it’s safe to say that his camera has done as much, if not more, to propel the label in a new direction as a reworked tuxedo ever could.
A purist might argue that a designer should design, a photographer should take photographs, and so forth. But, says Reed Krakoff, “honestly, that’s a very unsophisticated argument.” Since the birth of postmodernism, critics have been divided over the pluralist aspirations of everyone from painters to architects, who have often been taken less seriously for daring to work across multiple media. Consider the case of Tom Ford, who left the Gucci Group in 2004, at the zenith of his career, and went on to direct and produce the film A Single Man. During the run-up to its release, widespread skepticism was palpable (some commented that the film had all the aesthetic bells and whistles of a very expensive perfume ad), but that changed when the movie was nominated for an Oscar in 2009. Ford has also photographed a number of campaigns for his eponymous label since its launch in 2006, including the current one. He tends to alternate with established photographers, including Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Terry Richardson, Sølve Sundsbø, and Marilyn Minter.