AT YVES SAINT LAURENT
TOM’S TRIUMPH

Yves Saint Laurent: Lest anyone doubted it, the ready-to-wear legacy of Yves Saint Laurent is in great hands. One could call Tom Ford’s show on Wednesday, his second for the house, fabulous, but it was a whole lot more, because the transition of power from living icon to mere mortal wunderkind has been such a delicate, emotional process. Whether Saint Laurent’s Greatest Living Designer handle has kept him too cloistered from shifting winds, only he knows; certainly, it could have become a second-hand albatross for Ford. He knows that some people questioned his readiness for the succession, while extreme YSL loyalists wished for his failure. They all should have listened to what Ford had to say last season, before his good but unspectacular debut.
“What I want to do at Yves Saint Laurent is not redo what he has done, but take the spirit of what he is and what he was and move it into today,” Ford explained last summer. The spirit of Saint Laurent. A new designer can revive a house either of two ways, iconoclasm or constancy. Ford has chosen the latter, yet he is neither awed nor overly reverential. He started the process last season, focusing on the smoking, presented with Betty Catroux beauty. For fall, he searched those rich archives a little more deeply, pouncing on highly recognizable features and shaping them to look fresh rather than dusty, Saint Laurent in mood, Ford in modernity, and Gucci in nothing at all.
Tom dispensed with one question at the outset — no, he’s not afraid of color, as he opened with a sexy hot pink satin dress with smocking forming a cross down the center. But he quickly refocused on black for a parade of beautiful tops over tight skirts, some with deep corset belts. The thrust: alluring blouses with small peplums, Belle Epoque meets “Belle de Jour,” and takes on the peasant blouse, all cut in sheer silks and lace, the fabrics of seduction. But then, for Ford, fashion is about sex. Behind her neat chignon and bourgeois refinement, his Saint Laurent woman is pure provocateur, right down to her elaborately wrapped bondage shoes.
Of course, she loves a suit, the ultimate power look, and after last season’s le smoking soiree, we know Ford’s got plenty. This time, he showed only three, but they were killers, one with a jacket sculpted like a corset, the others faced with ruffles. As for his coats, embroidered with fur liners, if they’re not already presold, they will be soon. For evening, the line starts to the left, ladies. Ford may be fed up with the Hollywood stylist system, but this collection won’t do a thing to hurt his status with actresses. Who wouldn’t want to wear an exotic black scarf skirt, or a sleek smoking over his elaborate flamenco skirt? Yes, the new Saint Laurent era has arrived with a rustle, a flourish and Ford’s not-too-respectful bravado. We couldn’t have asked for more.