Sometimes, designing for Yves Saint Laurent must feel like having a goody-two shoes older brother, a Golden Child who can do no wrong. After all, you're inevitably standing in the shadows of one of the greatest fashion legacies of the twentieth century - it could be difficult to shoulder the burden.
This season, Stefano Pilati seemed to be content to go with the flow, and embrace Yves Saint Laurent's past. He printed the YSL house facade on his invitations, and showed his collection in the childhood home of one of Saint Laurent's most passionate and devoted clients, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild - you can't get much more comfortable than that. That bears mention because YSL's history has been a prickly subject for him of late - last season he scissored holes under the arms of pristine YSL jackets, and for last spring he seemed to caricature couture, reinterpreting Yves' framboise-strewn blouses as curtain-hemmed peasant dresses and leather-appliqued skirts left to unravel. If the latter was about confusion, and the former about protection, this collection seemed to be about safety - or at least, about offering pieces that were safely ensconced in the pantheon of fashion greats. Witness Pilati's take on the beyond-iconic YSL blouse, the trench, the jumpsuit, the peasant frock, the chiffon gown. All design classics, all house classics, all present and very very correct. Certainly it didn't seem as if Pilati was trying to push our buttons while thumbing his nose at the house's heritage anymore (an ambidextrous feat, which maybe explains a few of his slip-ups). Instead, Pilati followed the flow for S/S 2011 and paid homage to Saint Laurent.
It was a refreshing change of pace, but at times it felt perhaps a little too safe, as if Pilati was reverentially towing the party line and paying his dues. Those garments, as I said, are so classic to be standard reference-points in fashion now, and many of them have been riffed on by designers across the world for next season. Pilati's versions this season were wonderful reminders of how masterful Saint Laurent's eye was - and many, many women will want to wear what he offered on his catwalk - but did they tell us anything about the terribly talented Mr Pilati? Did they take us anywhere new? Yves Saint Laurent today is equal parts master past and master present, and it is Pilati's eye rather than the house's archives that will take us into the future. Ultimately, this profoundly, even prosaically, safe collection would have benefitted from some of Pilati's danger.