The sexy side of YSL

di Giampietro Baudo

Stefano Pilati unveils the sinful soul of the French brand, with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, underground culture, rule-breaking and the notion of power associated with sex.

The sexy side of YSL
Stefano Pilati

“Sex & money”. These two words sum up the season. Stefano Pilati’s message for Yves Saint Laurent menswear marks the beginning of a new aesthetic chapter in the story of the prestigious French house, which is now part of François-Henri Pinault’s PPR group. After eight years at the creative helm of the label (Pilati was appointed in 2004, following the departure of Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole – Ed.), the time has come to make some changes. Amidst the spotless marble of the Sorbonne, the designer opted for a hard and sexy approach, which was reminiscent of the more intimate and personal side of Yves Saint Laurent himself. “Over the years, I have always tried to portray a precise idea of a man: an elegant, cosmopolitan and – above all – original figure. I have sought to move in this direction once again this season, revealing an underground culture that is no longer quite so hidden away and concealed. The only thing that has remained secret is a strong, almost extreme sexuality, which I have aimed to infuse in every single outfit.” Behind this season’s portrait was a broad artistic background, in which a prominent part was played by an old interview with Andy Warhol. Robert Mapplethorpe’s lifetime companion Sam Wagstaff could be heard reading it out in the soundtrack, which featured samples of Madonna’s Justify my Love in an electro remix by Scanner, giving a sinful atmosphere with hints of S&M.

What was the guiding concept behind this season?

The photographic legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe. Sex seen as a form of rule-breaking. A 1970s biker jacket from the YSL archives. The notion of power associated with sex. The absence, at the present time, of thriving “underground” scenes like the elite movements in New York in the 1970s and 80s. And a picture of Yves Saint Laurent himself wearing a black leather trench coat.

How important are the Yves Saint Laurent archives when you are creating menswear?

They are not very important. They are really just guiding images of Yves Saint Laurent that normally match my initial ideas in the creation of collections and provide a reasonable amount of support. You could say that they are a blend of fragments and memories.

Do you have specific points of reference in mind when you design a men’s collection?

I often think of myself. I also frequently bear in mind the current climate or iconographic images of the masters of style, which I normally choose for their aesthetic and intellectual sophistication.

Could you define your concept of menswear? And most importantly, could you tell us in which direction you think the men’s wardrobe is heading?

Menswear has the wind in its sails right now. For years I have been striving with my fashion to bring out the vanity that can be found in every man, so as to make it more acceptable and reduce its focus on a female target. This is particularly important at an iconic brand like Yves Saint Laurent, where originality, style and vanity are not only legitimate but also vital for the identity and success of the label.

What are the essential elements in menswear today?

A clean-cut silhouette. Presenting a take on the classics. Practicality. And a youthful spirit: this is the really new feature. Even when they prefer a classical style, to the point of blind devotion to tradition, men have realized that seeking to look younger makes them feel better.

Does it still make sense to put on men’s fashion shows?

Until the press and customers develop a sense of imagination that goes beyond viewing a hanging garment, we will be compelled to present a complete, unified vision and an atmosphere. And there is nothing better than a fashion show to translate an image and creative wonders into something that is tangible and easy to understand.

Would you like to communicate with a certain type of man with your collection?

All of the aesthetic masters of the past. As for the rest, I am interested in everyone. I don’t pass judgement or discriminate. I believe that my fashion is timeless and cosmopolitan, and the same is true of my ideal customers, to whom I am presenting my creative journey.

Do you prefer creating the men’s or the women’s collections?

Menswear allows me to overhaul my approach and be more pragmatic in the functional aspects. The romantic dream of beauty appeals more for women, so I have a more abstract outlook and way of working: in the womenswear there is more intangible, tantalizing tension.