By  on June 27, 2008

PARIS — Remembering Yves Saint Laurent, vintage guru Didier Ludot has filled the window of his Palais Royal boutique with around 20 embroidered suede creations by the late designer in time for Paris couture week. The majority of the designs hail from Saint Laurent's fall 1968 couture collection.

Dealers confirmed a spiked interest in vintage Saint Laurent in the weeks following the designer's death on June 1.

A leopard coat designed by Saint Laurent for the house of Dior in the early Sixties was snapped up for a fixed $1,015 on Yoox's vintage sale on June 5.

Ludot disclosed he has received a number of calls from designers hoping to obtain rare Saint Laurent relics. "Over the years, whether it's Prada, Marc Jacobs or Dolce & Gabbana, the first question from designers has always been what I have in terms of Yves Saint Laurent," he said, adding Miuccia Prada dressed in couture Saint Laurent in her late teens.

"Such was his [power], that every designer since has been obliged to pay homage to Yves Saint Laurent," continued Ludot, who owns around 800 pieces of haute couture and 1,000 pieces of Rive Gauche Yves Saint Laurent designs.

"Being a collector, I will only ever put up for sale pieces that I don't already own," said Ludot.

Having been in white-hot demand since Saint Laurent's retirement in 2002, dealers say prices for vintage YSL, already at a premium, have not been affected by the designer's death. "Any instance of prices being bumped up is just a question of bad taste," said Ludot, who explained that any piece once belonging to one of Yves Saint Laurent's close female circle — Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Aillaud, say, or Loulou de la Falaise — is worth twice its basic price.

As flea market vendors overtly shovel random Yves Saint Laurent-anything under the tourist's nose, for those more discerning YSL aficionados the designer's death has further underscored the scarcity of his couture creations, as one of the vintage sector's most-sought-after perennials.

Most in demand, dealers concluded, are Yves Saint Laurent's numbered couture Mondrian dresses, estimated at around 30,000 euros, or around $50,000, and any piece from the designer's iconic fall-winter 1976-77 Ballets Russes collection."The early couture pieces are rare. I don't see a lot of couture Mondrian dresses floating around, sadly," commented Decades' Cameron Silver, adding that, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Chloë Sevigny, Kristin Davis and Rachel Griffiths among past vintage YSL supporters, he expects many more celebs will pay homage to the designer on red carpets to come.

"The Mondrian dress is made of a thick jersey that is susceptible to moths, so it's exceptionally rare to come across one that's in good condition," said Ludot.

Most of them are already spoken for, with four out of the five Mondrian catwalk pieces owned by the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. The last significant Yves Saint Laurent donation from a private client, meanwhile, according to a foundation spokesman, was from Nan Kempner following her death in 2005.

Silver, who predicts the market will see a reemergence of vintage pieces from YSL's widely distributed Rive Gauche line, revealed the most impressive Saint Laurent costume jewelry collection he knows of, comprising around 4,000 pieces, belongs to an anonymous East Coast collector.

"It certainly rivals the collection of the YSL Foundation, and is so comprehensive and has been fastidiously researched and catalogued. It should have its own museum," he enthused.

With collectors steadily tightening their grip on their Saint Laurent treasures, sourcing pieces by the late designer is just a question of patience, dealers say.

"I never curry favor with collectors. I am too respectful of their passion and the emotional connection they have to their stash," said Silver, adding the exchange hopefully results, "when they wish to divulge," in a karmic win for Decades.

"Collectors have a hard time parting with their Yves Saint Laurent pieces, but they know that I'm here," echoed Ludot. "Every day I hope to get that call, every day. It's my dream."

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