Yves Saint Laurent: Talk about pressure. After his whirlwind ascent, the critical trashing of his first collection and its subsequent embrace by the Hollywood set, Stefano Pilati must have felt the weight of the world going into the fall season. He no doubt still glimpses the imposing shadows cast by Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford, and knows that, in fashion, one’s window for making an impact is limited. Yet unlike at Gucci, Ford’s grip on the Saint Laurent legacy is hardly ironclad and in just one season has loosened considerably, leaving Pilati freer to find his way through the founder’s heritage.

The collection Pilati showed on Sunday night to close the fall season showed vast improvement over his dotty debut. Though still working within the same house mandate — specifically an emphasis on day clothes — he proceeded confidently, with a better grasp of the subtleties of cut and flourish that make clothes realistic. So basta the dots, and welcome to a more subdued, sophisticated lineup. He opened with a nod to the season’s sobriety — a black suit with the sleeve of the moment, cut short over filmy sleeves. But this was merely an introduction to a group of newly spun classics, such as a sleek tweed suit finished with a bow or a gray pullover belted over slim black pants. The looks were waist-conscious and often lean as he confined volume mostly to deep flounces banding slim skirts.

Unfortunately, however, Pilati just couldn’t leave well enough alone — literally. Then, complications set in as he got bogged down in tricky cuts, countless ball buttons and the unfortunate evolution of those sorry spring skirts — no longer Proustian, but still too much pouf.  Nevertheless, Pilati performed gamely in a tough spot, though whether he is ultimately up to managing the Saint Laurent legacy remains to be seen.

Valentino: “I want my clothes to walk the streets,” read Valentino’s show notes. Those are interesting words from the man who dresses the world’s most pampered set. Just how many of Val’s sexy, glamour-loving gals might actually be pounding the pavement remains to be seen. But when it comes to fashion, it’s really the thought that counts.

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