In his first interview since showing his final collection for Yves Saint Laurent just four weeks ago, Stefano Pilati was the guest of honor at last night’s Fashion Talks at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). He sat down with Pamela Golbin, Chief Curator of the Louvre’s Musée de la Mode et du Textile to chat about his career thus far and what might be next.
While the two skirted around the issue of what exactly led to Pilati’s somewhat sudden departure from YSL, and never mentioned his successor, Hedi Slimane, one got the impression that his time there was complicated and so is he, as a person. On stage, looking dapper in a pair of well-cut trousers, chic socks, a dark blazer, scarf and sunglasses he never took off, he looked handsome, cool and relaxed, but doesn’t he always? “I’m really happy,” he said right off, adding that he was more happy than he would have thought possible “under these circumstances.”
The discussion then switched to his early days at YSL, where he had been hired by Tom Ford after two years working as an assistant designer at Miu Miu. He said where Prada was more of a family business, YSL, which had recently been acquired by PPR, felt more corporate. In the beginning, he admits there were challenges. “Let’s not go there,” he said. Tom Ford, he explained, had “enough confidence for everybody around him,” and gave him a lot. Pilati said he felt “lost” and “abandoned” when Tom Ford left the house. After which, he essentially said his greatest accomplishment was keeping his job. “I thought that was it,” he said, referring to his first show without Tom Ford, “They’re going to fire me straight away.”
Even though rumors of his ousting plagued him for much of his tenure, he wasn’t fired and in fact brought the house to profitability, creating some of the most coveted fashion items of the past decade, many of which were displayed in a slideshow projected on stage behind him.
One of the most complicated discussion topics was Yves Saint Laurent, the man, who was retired, but still alive, until 2008. He said he met Saint Laurent a few of times and Saint Laurent had written a couple of very sweet letters. Pilati described it as a “delicate situation.” Though, he did say that when Saint Laurent passed away, it gave him “a sense of freedom.”
I got the sense that Pilati didn’t like or understand how seriously the fashion industry takes itself sometimes. When asked what advice he would give to an aspiring designer, he explained that there are “a lot of politics.” “I mean, who are we saving here?” he said, sarcastically.
I also got the sense that if he were to have his own business, he would probably run it a bit differently than his superiors at YSL. So, will he have his own business? It sounds like it. I think. Right now, he is “on vacation,” but when asked what’s next, he made a lot of vague statements such as “I want to feel like I’m part of this moment, this era” and “I am pretty sure I have the energy and the knowledge at least to try to do something relevant, something that is part of what people need.”
We don’t know what that is, and he sounded afraid to say anything too firm, but maybe his friend Anna Wintour will help him figure it out. In a disappointingly brief question and answer period after the discussion (I didn’t get picked, boo), Fern Mallis asked Pilati if he regretted his cameo appearance in The September Issue. In the (infamous?) scene, Wintour visits Pilati’s studio to preview his collection and is very short with him, asking, annoyed, “What, no color in this collection, Stefano? No evening?”
“Absolutely not,” he responded (to Mallis). “The reality was that was a great collection. Very successful. It was a turning point in my work.” He added, “In fact, I have a great relationship [with Wintour] Yes, I got mad…she has the personality that she has, but I can assure you that when you talk to her, she looks at you. I don’t regret it, it was an experience.”