The stars are coming out tonight

YSL designer Stefano Pilati has used symbols of life, light and dreams for hisstellar spring collection. And the effect is heavenly, says Susannah Frankel

"The collection centres around the Yves Saint Laurent heritage of tailoring and the concept of iconography," says Stefano Pilati, creative director of the French fashion house since 2005. "My focus was on construction and volume and on applying, with precise tailoring, what is traditionally a masculine approach to women's fashion. At the same time, I was thinking about icons. Yves Saint Laurent's own, rich iconography but also the universality of signs and symbols and their power and influence over every day life."

There can, of course, be few more universal symbols than that of the star that looms large this season in this particular collection as well as that of that other great French institution, Chanel. For Karl Lagerfeld, spring/summer 2008 is an unabashed celebration of Americana – and the stars and stripes of the American flag in particular. It seems like a curious reference, given that country's current state of economic downturn, although maybe that is precisely the point. Something's got to persuade the vital US consumer to part with his or her hard-earned cash, after all, and a heady dose of unabashed patriotism may do the job.

For Pilati, however, the presence of oversized stars decorating shoes, bags and, in the case of the look featured here, a particularly modernist take on the chain mail vest is more abstract in flavour.

"For me, stars are symbols of life, light and dreams," says the designer. "They are at once spiritual and childlike. They act as the only real adornment in the collection which is otherwise quite disciplined. Embroidered or in coloured Plexiglass, stars appear literally in the ready-to-wear, on shoes and in jewellery, but also metaphorically as inspiration for pattern-making and draping techniques."

It's all quite brilliant – in the truest sense of the word.

The heady mix of eroticism and sophistication – over and above the gratuitous flaunting of flesh – that was always key to Yves Saint Laurent's own oeuvre is here very much in evidence. It almost goes without saying that this is among the most extreme pieces in the collection, both creatively and financially – the price tag of £19,000 might hardly be described as a snip – but its construction is indeed echoed throughout not least in the cut of the French navy honeycomb cotton jersey skirt that accompanies it and which is as deceptively simple as it is quintessentially chic. Moreover, Saint Laurent himself relied on a similar play between the overt fashion statement and an apparently classical style. Take as example the sheer black chiffon blouse of the late 1960s that scandalised both general public and fashion insider when it was first shown, worn with nothing more outré than a well-cut pair of black trousers.

For his part, three seasons ago Pilati moved away from the hourglass silhouette and traditional embellishment favoured by bourgeois French fashion, and by the grand couture houses in particular, and towards an aesthetic that, while not strictly speaking minimal, seemed restrained by comparison. It was also, by jolie madame standards at least, distinctly on the roomy side. "I felt the need to go back to the essence of the clothes," he said at the time, "to what the clothes mean and what it means to be a designer today. I liked the idea of simplicity which is very Saint Laurent, very Rive Gauche. Once you have a very beautiful coat, for example, with a very beautiful cut, in a very beautiful fabric, you don't need to do anything more. So I worked on the fabric, I worked on the cut, I worked on the volume and on the idea of anti-opulence."

This mindset, too, referred back to the house's namesake who, in his early and most radical incarnation, famously brought the uniform of the Beat generation to the couture catwalk, proudly upholding the values of May 1968 to an audience who were espoused to anything but.

"I wanted it to be political," Pilati, said of his own change of direction. "Saint Laurent has always been that way and provocative too. I'm more and more affected by what's going on around me. What am I going to do? Sequins? It didn't feel right. I didn't feel good. Fashion should not simply be an exercise for a designer to celebrate his vision. My vision is only a vision if people respond to it and I respond to them and their needs. I'm not interested in a theme for the sake of a theme, it's more of an attitude. I think maybe women will appreciate that."

They may indeed and, with this in mind, the designer hasn't looked back. This season, the oversized grey tailoring of autumn/winter has given way to a lighter, warm-weather interpretation cut in technically advanced weaves of cotton, jersey and even grey marle, normally the preserve of sportswear. The cut is still generous over-and-above body-conscious though high-waisted throughout – there is nothing even remotely slouchy about its appeal. Given the dramatic turnarounds that elsewhere characterise designer fashion, it is interesting to see a big name brave enough to develop a story as opposed to throwing it out every six months and starting from scratch.

"The objective as I was designing this collection was to continue and update an exploration of a silhouette and volume that started in the autumn/winter 2007 collection," says Pilati, safe in the knowledge that such a timeless and discretely luxurious stance may be just what the world is looking for just now.

"My designs are for a mature woman – not in terms of age but emotion," he continues. "She is someone who is confident about her style and feels no need to follow fake projections of herself. These days, we are fixated on nostalgia for youth – from wrinkles to the latest low-waisted pair of jeans. Women are subjected to a race against aging instead of the elegance of maturity, self-awareness and self-worth."

However challenging his designs may be, they are always empowering, made for women who stride rather than totter and dress to impress no-one other than themselves.

"I don't think the current social and political climate calls for over-adornment or the superfluous," Stefano Pilati says. "I want to address womanhood in its most contemporary form."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Circles South East Youth Service: Youth Services Volunteer

    this is an unpaid voluntary position: Circles South East Youth Service: LOOKIN...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £30,000+

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading privately owned sp...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

    Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn