Yves sought 'le silence des vêtements, le mellieur silence des vêtements', but there was nothing silent about those loud, brash exits.
An Yves Saint Laurent collection is always about one theme: Yves Saint Laurent. Why look elsewhere, after all, when you have everything you need (including a legend) in-house? While the fashion pendulum has spun slightly backwards in favour of Balenciaga, Saint Laurent still looms large on many an inspiration board - not least Stefano Pilati's. Having paid homage, played pastiche, and fallen into outright parody at one point or another, Pilati now seems comfortable enough in the long and exceedingly dark shadow cast by Monsieur Saint Laurent. But whether comfort is what makes truly great fashion is another matter entirely.
Last season, Pilati pushed reverence to revival and resurrected the house's greatest hits. Sometimes with barely a tweak. For Autumn/Winter 2011, he began to play his old tricks, twisting YSL old into YSL new - this was still a decidedly backwards-glance, but this time the vision was less crystal-clear. Certainly, a theme was somewhat lacking - we jumped from eighties Prince-of-Wales checked working-woman suits through polka-dot patent and into the liquid silk-satin of the decidedly Saint Laurent seventies. When the whiter-than-Persil white silk jersey dropped, the ostrich popped and a Bianca Jagger trouser-suit hit the decks, it turned more Studio 54 than Le Sept - and sometimes looked a little too Tom Ford for Gucci to feel entirely relevant - but the glamour quotient registered as a hit. Just about.
What was more interesting was Pilati's daywear, far surer than his hand for evening and certainly more modern. In this offering, the engaging clumsiness and clunkiness to the silhouettes stood out - quite literally in many a stiffened, curved sleeve and belling skirt. They were reminiscent of Pilati's opening gambit for the house back in 2004, and in a season dominated by a slickness born of sucked-in fifties-fetish, clean sci-fi sixties and the continuing Minimalism that feels so terribly now (via 1994), the heaviness of some of those shapes was still refreshing. Perfection can be a bore - the oddness, ungainliness even, of some of the cavernous sleeves Pilati plonked on his day dresses and shrunken little bombers, the juxtaposition of fullness with brevity, the uncomfortable way the clothes sat on the body, looked compelling. At least to an observer. But what woman would pay good money to look fidgety and ill-at-ease?
All credit to Pilati, what he was trying to do today is fiendishly difficult to pull off - jolie-laide the French call it, or ugly-pretty. Some of Pilati's offerings were just pretty ugly - a Vimto-purple jacket with fettered hem, for example, a bishop-sleeve blouse in cheap-looking shiny satin, or the bulbous sleeves on a puerile, infantile pinafore frock, scarred with a heavy-handed tweed-print that also cross-hatched the surface of a searing cobalt mini dress. Yves sought 'le silence des vêtements, le mellieur silence des vêtements', but there was nothing silent about those loud, brash exits - especially next to understated wool-tweed suiting, even whispering its way across a fur coat. Which begs the question: however interesting it is on a conceptual level, is this kind of experimentation really compatible with Saint Laurent? It may be right for now, but is it right for here? If this collection sounds incongruous, you'd be right. And that's almost a dictionary definition for this entire Saint Laurent offering: lacking in harmony, or compatibility, or appropriateness.