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PFW: YSL's Stefano Pilati brings on the girl power

March 10, 2009 |  6:30 pm

Italian designer Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent during the autumn/winter 2009 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris PARIS -- Yves Saint Laurent the man died last year, but Yves Saint Laurent the brand is here to stay. News came last week that after a decade of losses, the house is finally in the black -- in the middle of a recession, no less.

You only have to look to designer Stefano Pilati to figure out why. He knows what women want before they know it, and has from his very first collection for spring 2005, when he put the emphasis on the waist with wide belts and tulip skirts, and the media (myself included) poo-pooed it. A year later, we were all wearing belts. They were a trend so big, it even filtered down to the mall.

Pilati was onto the broad-shouldered '80s before anyone too. And those platform shoes he's showed with his collections from the beginning, well,  we're still wearing them now.

But it was with the collection that he showed on Monday that Pilati fully realized Saint Laurent's vision of empowering women through fashion. Gone were the too-high heels, the silly wigs and the dhoti pants of Pilati's past. It was time to get down to business, and he did, by translating the season's sexy, edgy vibe into something wholly wearable, instead of the retro parody so many designers have given us.

Italian designer Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent during the autumn/winter 2009 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris A glossy black biker jacket with discreet studding on the collar was on trend, but not too on trend -- meaning that it's the kind of piece you would want in your wardrobe forever. Ditto the black leather pants -- not too tight -- topped off with a perfect white shirt with puffy, three-quarter-length sleeves. (It's a wonder more designers haven't riffed on the white shirt for fall; it's so timeless.)

This was power dressing with flair -- a high-waist pinstripe pencil skirt and a  white shirt with a romantic puffy collar and an office-to-cocktails funnel-neck shift with a thin belt and just a hint of sheen.

There were a few moments of eroticism, with a black leather body suit Madonna would love, and a black leather bustier worn under a sexy secretary pinstripe suit.

But it was all respectable, sensible, quiet glamour. The jazz piano playing softly in the background said it all.

-- Booth Moore


Photos: Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent at Paris Fashion Week

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Photos: Yves Saint Laurent | 1936-2008

Photos: Pierre Verdy / AFP / Getty Images