PARIS — “This is not what we expect of our elders.” So says designer Stefano Pilati, responding to comments from Pierre Bergé published last month by Suzy Menkes, international fashion editor for 19 Vogue Web sites.
This story first appeared in the October 7, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the interview, Bergé took swings at Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent’s design successors Tom Ford and Pilati, dismissing the latter’s tenure from 2000 to 2008 by saying, “it is better not to talk about it because it was nothing at all.”
Pilati, now Ermenegildo Zegna’s head of design, initially declined to comment on Bergé’s remarks, but was perhaps emboldened by Lagerfeld, who shot back and told WWD: “[Bergé] is from another era. Times are not the same. He has to adapt to the times. The times don’t have to adapt to him. If he doesn’t like them, he should shut up and retire.”
Here, Pilati’s response, in full:
“I am not at all surprised by Bergé’s comment about me and my work at YSL. I am, however, surprised about Suzy Menkes’ attempt to keep his quotes on the topic still relevant by including them in an interview of him recently.
“As one of my colleagues described it in an article about me few years ago, my take at YSL has been the most ambitious one: referenced to the past but challenging the future; dealing with the heritage while circumventing the risk of being literal or retro; respecting the house, giving an interpretation of it: a complicated exercise, a fascinating one, probably lost on some and I accept that.
“But, when it comes to defining ‘elegance,’ it is an attitude of taste, missed in fashion nowadays in my opinion, especially when people of the presumed stature of Bergé or Menkes are still trying to be sensationalists about a past that is gone and confusing knowledge for good taste.
“It was never ‘off the record’ that Bergé’s bad taste was a reason for jokes between Mr. Saint Laurent and his closest friends. I would assume he would be more focused on the financial success we reached at YSL under my tenure, something he would probably be best suited to comment on if he cared to look.
“As far as I am concerned, it was a great experience working for the maison and for the Kering Group and I am flattered to have gained Mr. Lagerfeld’s admiration, which obviously is more than mutual and who is without a doubt a better arbiter of what is current and relevant. Paris confronts you with an amount of good taste that sometimes feels almost arrogant, but sometimes, you run into an insurmountable lack of the elegance which one would hope to find in people in respectable positions.
“Bergé and Suzy definitely will hold a place in the history of fashion, but probably not as ‘style icons.’ To achieve that, maybe they should work on themselves a bit more, and why not give elegance of the mind a try?”