en vogue

Yves Saint Laurent's style has stayed the same for over 30 years but his classics still look timeless. Styling by Sophia Neophitou. Photographs by Justine Parsons

In the hushed, mirrored and gilded salon inside Yves Saint Laurent's palatial headquarters on Avenue Marceau in Paris, a small group of fashion editors from Italian Vogue and from Elle across the world are watching an informal fashion show. Instead of striding the usual never-ending catwalk, the house models take five steps into the circle of chairs. There are no theatrics, no silly hats or eight-inch heels. This is simply a show of seemingly effortless technical supremacy and - on the whole - good taste. All eyes are focused on the clothes: the sweep of a shoulder, the curve of a hem, the line of a lapel.

More than any other designer, Yves Saint Laurent continues to inspire and influence other designers. Alexander McQueen swore he aspired to design for YSL before he took the job at Givenchy. But Saint Laurent, now in his sixties, continues to turn out collections that contain some jewels of classic fashion design, from the famous smoking suit to the simplest column dress, daringly split from the hip. It's something we fashion harpies bang on about every season. Once again, fashion has come to YSL.

By next winter, fashion promises to take a turn towards the Eighties. Shoulders are back and on the rise, and clothes are returning to a more constructed shape. When you put on a YSL jacket, you feel the tailoring straight away, giving you posture and confidence you never thought you had. It has the same effect, superficially at least, of making you look like you have suddenly grown three inches and lost excess pounds. The first thing you notice about clothes like these is their weight. There is no skimping on fabric or cut and a good few metres of the most luxurious wool crepe is heavier than you might think. It is the clothing equivalent of the clunk of a Mercedes door. Even the softer, drapey pieces have aweig ht and structure to them that only money can buy. Lots of it. A classic smoking jacket will set you back over pounds 800. And then you could hardly put your favourite old pair of trousers with it. For the suit, you are talking the price of a tailor-made Savile Row number. But think about it as a long-term investment and, over a period of 10 years, it is quite cost-effective. For the average women (if anyone who spends more than pounds 1,000 on a single suit can be called average) who shops at Yves Saint Laurent, money is not an overriding factor. Customers of the London shops in New Bond Street and Sloane Street are usually long-term regulars who are on first-name terms with the shop assistants. Marilyn de Keyser, the PR for Kangol, is one such customer. She doesn't buy every season, but her wardrobe is a mixture of YSL and Jean Muir, with the odd piece of Donna Karan Essentials thrown in for good measure. "I do get tremendous pleasure from his clothes," she says. Her first purchase was a black corded velvet jacket 11 years ago. "I didn't sleep all night thinking about the monumental price," she remembers. "But I'm still wearing it now." For her, it is the timelessness of YSL clothes that keeps her going back. They can be worn in different ways, be it to the office or a dinner party. "The things never crease," she says. "Saint Laurent is always right and perfectly understated." Over the years, her purchases have included a red jacket with white buttons, worn with a white or a black skirt, a grey suit, and most recently, a black velvet jacket with big jet buttons. "The clothes have become part of my life," she says. "I'm built like an Oxo cube and Saint Laurent does hide that. I'm not good in soft things and YSL gives you structure. They're proper clothes: you know you're getting something for your money." Tamsin Blanchard This page white waffle tabard dress, pounds 795, by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 137 New Bond Street, London W1, 33 Sloane Street, London SW1; jade green footless tights, pounds 4.99, by Jonathan Aston, from department stores nationwide (enquiries 011 6-286 2388); grey satin asymmetric shoes, pounds 280, by Gianni Versace, 34-36 Old Bond Street, London W1, Versace Collections, Italian Centre, 162 Ingram Street, Glasgow Above Electric blue halterneck dress, pounds 940, by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, as before Black classic smoking tuxedo jacket, pounds 835, and matching trousers, pounds 415; black patent skinny belt, from pounds 95, all by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, as before Black bra top, pounds 335; black drape skirt, pounds 395, both by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, as before; bronze and green print mules, pounds 140, by Martine Sitbon for Stephane Kelian, 48 Sloane Street, London SW1 Fuschia pink halter neck dress, pounds 885, by Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, as before; fuchsia pink, strappy high heeled shoes, pounds 125, by Katharine Hamnett, 20 Sloane Street, London SW1; nude tights with fuchsia seamed heel and toe, pounds 4.99, by Jonathan Aston,as before

Hair Dennis Lanni at Price Make-up Feride Uslu at Frame, NY Model Sarah King at DNA, NY

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