Yves Saint Laurent: Wow! Stefano Pilati has arrived at Yves Saint Laurent. The first exit of his show on Thursday night — an austere, voluminous double-breasted coat — heralded a very different collection from those he has presented in the past. What came across most dramatically was a slicker, more focused and, yes, more editorial look, although ironically, with their chic, many-shades-of-black appeal, these clothes are probably far more salable than spring's giant buffalo plaids.

According to his program notes, Pilati sought to distance himself "from luxury in its most obvious form." He did this by confining his palette to blacks and moody darks, restricting his decorative impulses and focusing on strong, substantive shapes without a trace of spring's romance. Then, he offered a gentle antidote to Space Age goings-on elsewhere; here, he went futuristic himself, a mood declared in bold, clean-lined volumes and small, shiny fake croc helmets matched to long killer gloves. And, happily, though some silhouettes owed a debt to the past, Pilati avoided Retroville by miles, landing in more au courant terrain, where women embrace a kind of chic that stops just this side of tough. Gutsy fabrics keyed the mood, giving structure to cocoon and mannish silhouettes, whether in coats or dresses, which Pilati kept short over thick, ribbed tights. When he went softer — but not coyly so — it was with beautiful sack dresses tied at the neck in back.

Throughout, Pilati deliberately limited, but did not banish, ornamentation. Rather, he shunned traditional notions of decoration in favor of moody textural plays and a whole lot of fabric interest in, for example, a slippery black metallic, a shiny tonal jacquard and that oh-so-racy fake croc. Some of these wound their way into evening, when Pilati was amazingly controlled, banishing the grand statement gowns he has so loved in the past. In their place: jumpsuits and smokings, slick, structured and on the cusp of severe. In fact, given their new, fuller jackets and stiff fabrics, some turned toward clunky. But no matter; Pilati's new dark mood has definitely brightened the vista at Saint Laurent.

Stella McCartney: Sophistication with spunk — it's an m.o. you don't see every day. Stella McCartney understands the combination to the core and has claimed it for her own, on Thursday merging the two forces into a delightful collection.The balancing act started as McCartney deftly played elements of obvious chic against high-function athletic touches. With a soupçon of the bad girl added in via black ankle boots with socks, her lineup pulsed with practical charm. McCartney has taken her Savile Row tailoring a long way, expanding well beyond the Brit rock-chick fare of her earlier work into more versatile clothes. Now, countless women should respond to her message of volume with its emphasis on outerwear in short, swingy coats, capes and jackets. And, oh yes, the knits. In this season of mega fur, fashion's highly committed different drummer offered big, chunky knits with major hand-worked tufting. These were intended not to mimic the real thing, but to offer a bold, just-as-cozy alternative.

The fabulous knits didn't stop there, as McCartney sent out a host of long, slouchy sweaters with a collegiate sweater-girl air. These came in ribbed, flat-knit and Nordic variations, often worn over little dresses to keep those gams in the picture. She did, however, pay fleeting attention to pants, and extended last season's rompers into wonderful knitted jumpsuits, including one riff on sweats in bright fuchsia with a racer back, perfect for the coed who likes to stand out on her way to class.

Givenchy: Riccardo Tisci is getting the hint. On Wednesday night, he showed a collection stripped of much of the pretension that has marked his past showings and distracted from his clothes. Apparently taking inspiration from his couture collection, he worked a seafaring theme (sans the puddles of water his models had to negotiate) to interesting effect.

Naturally, it started with tailoring, as in a peacoat, sailor pants and a boatload of brass buttons. He showed multiple variations and suits galore, much of it quite beautiful. However, when the scaled-back production put the focus where it should be — on the clothes — it became clear that Tisci's bravura isn't all about staging. His tailoring has a demonstrative quality — all big collars, lapels, falling appendages, even an occasional anchors-away cutout — that might be too much for a lot of women to pull off. As for his softer side, Tisci sent out sea creatures in delicate pink silks, perhaps to lure the sailors from their tasks. But even delicacy can be overwrought, and these, though lovely to look at, might be a bit too artsy to withstand the journey from fantasy seashore to urban cocktail party.

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