The genuinely gruelling round of press days continues, and yesterday gave us a chance to sample the wares of two houses whose Haute Couture histories are inextricably intertwined: Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Ever since the sensational Saint Laurent show in Paris in February I had been hankering after cramming myself into any one of a dozen samples, and yesterday afternoon I finally got my chance (under the watchful eyes of Anoushka and Kerri of YSL, of course). In person, the clothes were less stark and severe than the show made them seem: weightless tweeds were bonded with contrast fabrics as opposed to heavily lined, while feminine peplums and dirndl skirts flounced out from handspan waists. Papery flocked fabrics were used instead of velvet for architectural shapes held stiff from the body, but still light as tissue - all the heft, it seemes, was saved for Pilati's strong platform-soled boots, just the thing for the YSL woman to march into an uncompromising future.
Just around the corner, but a million miles away in concept, was John Galliano's wares for Christian Dior. The dark, slightly sinister rigour of Pilati's vision couldn't have contrasted more with the effervescent lightness of Galliano's offerings, inspired by the pastelised optimism of Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe and the creations both Monsieur Saint Laurent and his oft-overlooked successor Marc Bohan. The pre-collection by contrast was far darker, with Autumnal shades of merlot, anthractite and every shade of black worked into strict hourgrass siilhouettes with whorls of fabric across the hips and bust.
Bottega Veneta's low-key offerings were a rather quieter affair after these two juggernauts of French fashion, but sometimes the most iportant things can be said with a whisper. Tomas Maier, creative director of the house, was content to walk rather than run, slowly developing the line with beautifully worked wool jersey, gabardine and bias-cut wool-silk mix evening dresses which hissed luxury from every perfectly-finished seam. Intreccatio leather was subtly bound in crocodile, while in the mens collection an otherwise mundane cotton sweatshirt was invisibly lined with cashmere: the true definition of stealth wealth.