The appointment of former Yves Saint Laurent CEO – or rather, Saint Laurent Paris as it has been renamed – Paul Deneve to a position at Apple where he will manage "special projects" has turned heads that have quickly fixed their gaze on the iWatch.
While I'm certainly a champion of the need for serious pairings of fashion houses and tech companies to achieve truly wearable tech, that's unlikely to be Deneve's role at Apple. As CEO of Saint Laurent Paris, Deneve was charged with marketing for the brand. His achievements in that area are what make him a perfect fit for Apple.
At this moment in time Apple is very much like the Saint Laurent Paris Deneve took over in 2011. The fashion house had recently suffered the death of its creator, Yves Saint Laurent, and a runway show that did not end with Saint Laurent in a tuxedo surrounded by a flock of models is like an Apple product launch without Steve Jobs in a black turtleneck and "one more thing."
When Saint Laurent's health flagged, he shuttered the couture side of the brand and left the prêt-à-porter portion and runway posturing to other designers. While there had been some standing ovations over the preceding years, applause had died down, and when Deneve took over, he was quick to get rid of the existing creative director and appoint designer Hedi Slimane.
Slimane's designs reflect those of Saint Laurent in that they have a distinctive shape tied to the times, but they extend Laurent's aesthetic because those times are now. Deneve also made the radical decision to allow Slimane to base his studio in Los Angeles instead of Paris, forward thinking that benefitted the brand and contributed to it, allowing it to post the best Q1 financial results among the French luxury fashion conglomerate – Kering – it belongs to.
Part of stepping out of the shadow of the founder was the change of name last year, from Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris. "This change celebrates our legacy and heritage, while boldly marking our ambition for the future," Deneve wrote in a memo to staff. "It will allow us to return to the fundamentals of YSL and revive the spirit and the intentions that reigned over the creation of 'Saint Laurent Rive Gauche' in 1966: principles of youth, freedom, and modernity."
While Deneve might not propose anything so radical for Apple, which does not face the problem of being eponymous with its founder, the spirit of that sentiment would serve Apple well.