Jacques Brinon, Associated Press
PARIS — Even the gorgeous silk blouses and skirts in saturated jewel tones weren't enough to divert the audience's attention from the pink elephant in the room Monday at the Yves Saint Laurent spring-summer 2012 ready-to-wear show.
Everyone had of course read International Herald Tribune's story last week quoting unnamed sources as saying that YSL designer Stefano Pilati was on his way out, to be replaced by Raf Simons, currently of Jil Sander.
Pilati, a temperamental Italian known for his impeccable tailoring, has garnered mixed critical reviews over his years at YSL, and the rumor mill has insisted he was halfway out the door for several seasons running.
But Menkes' status as a living fashion legend and rock-solid reporter gave the story an almost bankable credibility — despite a suspiciously toothless denial from the brand.
And so it was that the audience took in Monday's YSL display with pre-emptive nostalgia, as if they were already missing the man they'd had such a hard time liking in the first place.
Two storied Paris labels that have both struggled in recent years to recapture their erstwhile days of glory, Chloe and Emanuel Ungaro, both fielded the debut collections of their new designers on Monday.
Chloe's Clare Waight Keller shrugged off her predecessor's heavy looks, sending out feather-light pleated dresses and chemisiers that tapped into the house's ultra-feminine legacy.
The situation at Ungaro was murkier: After pinning their fortunes to a series of well-reputed designers, who ended up cycling in and out of the label at dizzying pace, the label's officials have plotted out a new course: Teamwork.
They stressed that Jeanne Labib, the little-known 29-year-old who took over after the latest designer deserted just weeks ahead of the spring-summer collections, is not actually replacing the decamped creative director but simply leading the studio as "chief designer." The hope, apparently, is that by prioritizing the actual clothes over the people who design them, they'll be able to jump-start the stalled brand.
Stella McCartney and Vanessa Bruno both delivered solid collections that looked like surefire commercial successes, while Italy's Giambattista Valli refined his retro-fabulous vision of haute bourgeois dressing.
Paris' most timeless brand, Leonard, served up appealing variations on the flower-covered jersey silk dresses they've been making — largely unchanged — for more than half a century.
Exhausted fashionistas approaching the end of the grueling monthlong multi-city exercise (some would say torture) that are the ready-to-wear collections have a good reason to wake up early on Tuesday: Chanel, possibly the most highly anticipated show on the calendar, kicks off day eight of the Paris collections, which also includes displays by Valentino and Alexander McQueen.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
The fallout from Suzy Menkes' bombshell of a story hung over the show like a pall, obscuring the collection — which, despite a few faux pas (a pup tent-sized day coat, anyone?) — was a strong one that showcased the kinds of rigorous but structured clothes Pilati does best.
He whipped up stiff silks in the kinds of saturated jewel tones one usually associates with fall into pretty blouses that puffed out through the back and shoulders and into little skirts and jackets with panels of scalloped ruffles. There were palazzo pants in fluid paisley printed silks and halter tops in rich sapphire, amethyst and turquoise.
And let us not forget the black pantsuits that somehow managed to be even steamier than the ones from last season — which several of the guests, including Elettra Wiedemann, Isabella Rossellini's model daughter — were rocking.
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