The retirement of Yves Saint Laurent has unleashed a rush on orders from his final, retrospective show last month, with sales running about 70 percent ahead of normal. And the house won't close its order book until late March or early April, according to couture director Helene de Ludinghausen, who has been run off her feet since the Jan. 22 spectacle.
"It's amazing," she told WWD Tuesday. "It's a feeling of 'things will never be the same anymore.' They like the style and they know they're never going to find it again."
Maintaining the discretion that is part of the couture tradition, de Ludinghausen declined to identify top-spending clients or divulge prices.
"People who used to buy three things are buying eight, and whoever is usually buying one is buying two," she allowed. She also noted that "people are being rather patient about getting their clothes because they're not buying for this instance; it's for their wardrobes."
Demand for new items versus retrospective looks is evenly split, she said.
The summer 2002 collection consisted of 40 mostly classic styles, only a fraction of which were shown on the runway. Bestsellers include a beige pantsuit and chiffon cocktail dresses, de Ludinghausen said.
The atelier is not able to reproduce all items from the retrospective show, an emotional 300-exit affair spanning four decades of creation and highlighting such signature looks as thigh-high boots, see-through blouses, safari suits, pantsuits and fox-fur chubbies. Fabrics simply do not exist today to duplicate many of the items from Saint Laurent's landmark Chinese and Russian collections from the mid-Seventies, de Ludinghausen said.
Best-selling retrospective items include jumpsuits, smokings, Mondrian dresses and embroidered evening jackets and cardigans, some dating from 1973. Of the latter, she said, "people buy it like it was a piece of jewelry."
About 45 percent of clients for Yves Saint Laurent couture are American, 30 percent are European, with the balance coming from South America, Mexico, Canada, the Mideast and Asia. They range in age from "their 30s to their 70s," de Ludinghausen said. "The majority of our clients are between 40 and 60."Ironically, Saint Laurent's final show also is attracting first-time customers, most of them in search of a tuxedo, the first of which Saint Laurent showed in 1966. Clients can chose from more than 30 different versions at the YSL couture salons on Avenue Marceau.
"They say that's a must for their wardrobe and it is an extremely practical thing to have," de Ludinghausen said. "When you're traveling and you have to go to an event, if it's black-tie or not black-tie, you're fine with a smoking. It's a great relief to have one."
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