PARIS — With Tom and Dom gone, it’s time for the Stefano and Mark show.
And while they must surmount daunting losses and meet enormous expectations for their show on Sunday night, Yves Saint Laurent’s new dynamic duo is facing the future with confidence — and no regrets.
“We very much share a common vision of what we did well, what we did less well and what has to change. And we’re both working 24/7 to move this company forward together,” YSL president and chief executive Mark Lee said, referring to himself and Stefano Pilati, who succeeded Ford at the design helm last March. “We now have the platform to grow the business aggressively within the walls we’ve built.”
In an interview, Lee spoke frankly about the shortcomings of the first phase of YSL’s development under the Gucci Group umbrella. Those include an inordinate focus on eveningwear, a too-dark shop design and an aggressive expansion that drove the company deeply into the red.
He also outlined his strategy for the next phase in YSL’s development, one based on growing sales by diversifying the product offering and capitalizing on such YSL icons as pantsuits, safari jackets and, yes, even logos.
Lee stopped short of personally criticizing Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole, who sought to pull off at YSL the same rejuvenation miracle they masterminded at Gucci. After all, both Lee and Pilati were present in the company — Pilati as Ford’s chief design deputy, Lee in his current role — and party to those endeavors.
But it’s clear the break has been made and Lee appears to be a deft survivor of all the corporate upheaval that transferred the full ownership of Gucci and YSL to French retail giant Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.
“It was always clear from Day One it was a radical and expensive strategy,” Lee said, seated in his sparsely furnished office on the Avenue George V. “But at the same time, the strategy was correct for a brand like this, for one with as much potential as YSL. Yves Saint Laurent should be positioned against the leading French luxury houses and today we really are.”
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