By  on February 29, 2008

Stefano Pilati delivered a bold, confident fall collection for Yves Saint Laurent on Thursday, ideal for power women who like their luxe straight up. The models strode out wearing uniform black, bowl-cut wigs in a tent at the Grand Palais that had a Space Age starkness. Here, one of Pilati's striking, sharply tailored looks.

Stefano Pilati's fall collection for Yves Saint Laurent featured power-woman looks, while Stella McCartney created sporty, down-to-earth styles.

Yves Saint Laurent:
A spirit, read Stefano Pilati's program notes, "that transcends literal notions of femininity." And how. Beneath a vast white multipeaked tent that turned the Grand Palais into an alien temple of worship more stark than serene, Pilati sent out an army of latter-day power women uniform in attitude and guise, each one determined enough to storm forth despite the black bowl-cut wig obliterating her eyes. They made for an imposing group, even off-putting to some in the audience. But they also telegraphed Pilati's message loud and clear: His Yves Saint Laurent is now bold, confident and ultrachic.

The show recalled Pilati's previous stellar outing of a year ago, and, when considered with that collection, provides hefty evidence that wistful romance and Eighties nostalgia are just not his thing. Rather, Pilati's forte seems to be strong clothes for strong women, the kind who shun visual frivolity for looks that are clean, graphic and, most of all, luxe. Wool dresses with contrasting curved panels down the front both obscured and suggested the body; dual-fabric jackets worked a sculptural Space Age motif. Even when Pilati softened up, restraint prevailed, as with a teal jersey dress with a controlled placement of ruffled tiers down one side.

As for referencing the house founder, Pilati worked with a surety that unshackled him from excessive homage while still allowing for acknowledgment in, for example, the numerous pleated trousers. And, instead of wrecking the power mood with tired red-carpet-pitch gowns, he kept evening as austere as day, closing the show with a dramatic cutaway smoking. That's smoking as in hot.Stella McCartney: A decade into her career, Stella McCartney has proven herself one of the fashion world's most grounded designers, fancy genetics aside. Her runway flaunts her obsession with designing for real life, and not just its chicest, most pulled-together moments. She's not put off by imperfect bodies, minimal primping time nor the notion of piling the kids into the van for a sightseeing trip to the Eiffel Tower. (The family celebrated her son Miller's third birthday that way on Monday morning.) For her, fashion is about looking great and feeling comfortable.

That attitude pulsed through the delightful collection McCartney showed on Thursday morning, starting with her first look out: a short wrap coat in felted wool with a big abstract paisley pattern, a fabric handmade in Somerset, England. This combined two of the collection's major motifs, volume and surface interest, since, throughout, McCartney favored roomy cuts and high-detail fabrics kept chic in muted gray tones. This made for terrific sporty fare, including a range of coats often worn over boots fleecy enough to go toe-to-toe with shearling. Also in the keep-warm department: stretched-to-there sweater dresses emblazoned with fake heraldic shields.

But not all occasions call for such cover. In a girlier mood, lovely pieces with deep borders of broderie anglaise lent an air of gentle romance, as did whimsically bunched chiffon dresses. Then McCartney countered the flou with shapely strapless frocks, some in unexpected thick wool lace, and a long navy velvet, stunning in its simplicity and plenty provocative.

Photo by Delphine Achard, Stephane Feugere, Giovanni Giannoni and Dominique Maitre

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