Last week we brought you a glimpse of the forthcoming New York Times Magazine profile of Yves Saint Laurent head designer Stefano Pilati, in which he asserts that Tom Ford — from whom he took over YSL when Ford stepped down in 2004 — is “talented but not gifted,” and more interested in designing safe clothes than taking risks in his collections. Pilati has been taking risks at YSL, and though they didn’t pay off in his critically panned first collections for the house, to call his fall ‘08 collection a success would be a gross understatement. Critics haven’t stopped raving over it since it walked in February. The full Pilati interview ran this weekend, and he had a lot more to say to Lynn Hirschberg about designing, his time in rehab, and why he doesn’t like male models. But let’s start with a little more dirt on Tom Ford.
Ford “seduced” Pilati to leave Prada for YSL, where everyone hated Tom.
“Tom is a seducer … When I met him, I was under his spell. But I was amazingly scared to move to Paris and work for YSL. Prada was like a family, and it was a very female environment. Tom was surrounded by men, and he was like a fashion designer in a movie. We were naïve at Prada — we did things because we liked them, and they took off. Tom was much more calculated. I spent the first year trying to absorb his mentality. It was very difficult. Tom was mostly living in London, and I was being tested by everybody at YSL in Paris. Even the receptionist. They all hated Tom, and they were all telling me about Mr. Saint Laurent and what he used to do.”
There is a reason Pilati’s Muse Two YSL bag looked nothing like his Muse One YSL bag.
“I do not get this naming of bags. Customers seem to like to ask for bags by name, but I don’t really like to name my bags — they are not children or pets.”
He doesn’t feel the need to make red-carpet clothes because stylists ruin them.
“[T]he Oscars and all those events were ruined by the stylists. Mr. Saint Laurent would never have tolerated the stylists having this much power. Unfortunately, it does affect sales. If an actress wears your dress, customers will call the day after to get that dress. That one dress may give popularity to the brand, but is it popularity you look for? I’m not sure. I think I’d rather have loyalty.”
He doesn’t like seeing male models on the runway.
“A well-dressed man is someone you want to share an evening with, have a conversation … You don’t want to see him on the catwalk. Whatever your sexuality, fashion is female … How beautiful is it to see the breast or the derrière moving on the street? We are all seduced by the blue of the sky and the red of the flower, why not the behind of a woman? It’s just a beautiful part of nature.”
He once sent one of his staffers to buy a pair of sandals off a man’s feet on the streets of Paris.
“The guy wanted 500 euros. But we got them for 100. The sandals are from a tribe of Bedouins, and they are genius. Maybe they’ll inspire me, maybe not. One day, they might fit into a Moroccan moment. You can find greatness everywhere. You just have to look.”
He’s been a fashionisto since he was 9 years old.
“I never had sneakers. My mother was pushing me to dress up, but from the ages of 8 or 9, I picked out my own clothes. I would change my clothes up to five times a day. To play, I had clogs. I had loafers to go to school. Lace-up shoes to go to Mass. This kind of discipline taught me a lot. To the point where I could then be more transgressive. I tried very early to break rules. I wanted to wear clothes from Fiorucci, that was the dream. My mother didn’t want that.”
His second rehab stint was at a facility for Vietnam vets.
“Can you believe it? I lived for one year with a T-shirt, a pair of jeans and nothing else. That was a shock from where I was coming from … In the end it was a privilege to spend a year on myself. I went to rehab because the drugs were starting to affect my creativity. I was in love with someone, and I thought it would be forever. But it wasn’t. Now, I never look back. I’m much more intrigued by lucidity than I was by my alteration.”
Being gay allows him to look at women objectively.
“I always wonder why 99 percent of the top male fashion designers are homosexual. In my case, I would say that my sexuality has led me to love women to death and to hate them as well … [Being gay] helped me understand the male mind. But when I do a fitting with a woman, I think, Would this woman seduce me?”
Naomi Campbell, the star of the fall YSL campaign, is like two people in one!
“Naomi represents the new world — in my mind, she is a mix of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
The Tastemaker [NYTM]
Related: Stefano Pilati: ‘Tom Ford Is Talented But Not Gifted’