The weight of history is such at the house of Yves Saint Laurent that almost consistently the first question anyone asks you when leaving a YSL show, is whether the collection was “really Saint Laurent.”
And the short answer to that question following the Monday, March 7, runway show of the YSL fall 2011 collection in Paris is, very much yes. This was Saint Laurent in the sense of being very strictly French, artfully poised, balancing a mix of sexual allure and reined in emotions and, most of all, of being frequently very beautiful.
That’s not to say that this was Stefano Pilati’s greatest collection for the house, but when the show hit its stride it had that rare sense of elan that one associates with the master at his best.
The Yves Saint Laurent runway show began too slowly, with a series of broken Prince of Wales check suits, which though stylish and crisp, were all a tad too similar and dragged down the mood. But one-quarter in, Pilati suddenly changed up two gears, adding a series of fur and feathers ideas with capes and wool jackets finished with arms and shoulders in sleek mink.
He pulled off several very brilliant sleights of hand – from the Prince of Wales coats made in delicately dyed and shorn mink, finished with bold white fox arms to an intriguing series of patent leather takes. These were done in polka dots, and finished with raised studding and golden chain collars – all very much part of the founder Saint Laurent’s canon, but updated with Pilati panache.
Worn with some great laced boots with Art Deco heels and sure-fire winner wedges enlivened with glass bauble in fun fair colors, the collection was very much Saint Laurent, but very much on Pilati’s terms.
The big wow factor was in the finale – a dozen canny white outfits like a jump suit topped by cardinal’s white ruffle collar in chiffon, the snazziest of tuxedos and Aztec fantasy bird woman white column with feather arms, all dissected with a leather bow belt.
The runway show of the Yves Saint Laurent fall 2011 collection also marked the end of yet another era at YSL, with CEO Valerie Hermann overseeing her last show for the house. Hermann, who is leaving Paris for New York to become the CEO of the fledging though highly promising label of Reed Krakoff, joined her successor Paul Deneve. It was a polished farewell.