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As its models prepare for the Paris runways, YSL's chief designer walks out


The Paris ready-to-wear season kicks off tomorrow, but only hours before the world's most feted designers show their work in the French capital came the announcement that Stefano Pilati, creative director of Yves Saint Laurent for almost a decade, would be stepping down.

The collection he unveils next Monday evening will be his last for this great fashion name.

"[I am] incredibly proud of what I have accomplished with my teams over the past decade at Saint Laurent," Pilati told trade paper, Women's Wear Daily. "I exit the house with fierce conviction in all that we have achieved and deep gratitude to those who have supported me along the way."

Pilati has good reason to be proud. It's no secret that while his predecessor at Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, had been responsible for the reversal of Gucci's fortunes at the close of the 20th-century, he failed to inject new life into this more famous brand.

Although Pilati has garnered mixed reviews from the moment he stepped into Ford's shoes in 2004, there's no arguing with the success of the majority of his collections. The money-spinning "muse" and "downtown" bags and the "tribute" shoe – all of which were designed during his tenure – have, equally, gone on to become among the status accessories of the decade.

Last month, François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Pinault Printemps La Redoute (PPR), Yves Saint Laurent's parent company, praised the brand's profitability, stating that figures for 2011 demonstrated a "giant step" forward. Rumours of Pilati's departure have plagued him for the past two years, nonetheless, with designers including Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane, responsible for Yves Saint Laurent menswear to critical acclaim in the late 1990s, all cited as most likely to succeed him.

Pilati, who was born in Italy in 1965, worked variously for Giorgio Armani and Prada, where in 1998 he was promoted to assistant designer at Miu Miu, before becoming chief designer at Yves Saint Laurent in 2002, working directly under Ford. When Ford retired from the label under a cloud of controversy, Pilati took over his position and, since that time, has reinvested it with the quintessentially French sense of style for which it was once known.