Stefano Pilati has produced two types of collections in his tenure at Yves Saint Laurent. There have been his pious homages to the Saint Laurent style mandates, Pilati playing by the rules - and playing safe. Then there have been his bursts of confidence in his own abilities as a designer, his willingness to think of Yves Saint Laurent as a label but Stefano Pilati as a designer, and of rule as something there to be broken. The former guarantees sales, and respectful nods of approval from the fashion industry. The latter often lead to critical and commercial chastising. It also tended to Pilati's work up a notch. Guess which route he took for his last hurrah at the house that Yves built?
Pilati decided - satisfyingly and gloriously - to throw caution to the wind and let rip in a way he hasn't for the past three or four seasons at Yves Saint Laurent. He decided to convince us of how he sees women for next season. And it was as persuasive as that first belted, bustled and ruffled Yves Saint Laurent collection of his back in 2004. If that collection was about the sweetness and coquetry of the Saint Laurent woman, this was about woman warriors. Yves once said he saw women as idols. Today, that's what Pilati made of them too.
The ingredients were strong, even harsh. There was leather, the opening look bound at the edges with calf, strong shoulders jutting forcefully above a cinched waist and narrow trouser. That was a Saint Laurent shoulder if ever there was one, the shoulder his jackets - and, come to think of it, the entire eighties concept of Power Dressing - were built on. Pilati also built his collection on them, and on our other sartorial cliches of strength. Chain-mail trimmed draped gowns and sleek bib-tops, and was worked into narrow evening dresses; fur and leather abounded, trussing Pilati's femmes fatale with all the trappings of authority and leadership.
Those totems would normally seem tough and hard, but there's a coating of irony to Pilati dressing his Yves Saint Laurent woman for power just as he loses his control of the house. Maybe that explains why he chose to spray lilies, a flower of mourning, across everything: they were jacquarded into fabrics, cast in silver to coil around necks. They even popped up in three-dimensions, appliqued across a leather jacket that slyly referenced Pilati's much-maligned 'Strawberry' collection. Let's indulge in a touch of abject object analysis: the lily is a flower of mourning, but they also have a neat link with Saint Laurent's Proustian obsession. Except, rather than the true Proustian Casablanca lily, Pilati splashed Calla lilies across his garments. Right, but wrong. That's how Pilati has always best-dealt with the albatross of the Yves Saint Laurent house history. What a pity this, his strongest collection in every sense of the word, would be his last.