Image above: Stefano Pilati with Karen Elson, W Magazine.
Last night I attended the second in the series of Fashion Talks at the French Institute Fashion Francaise, New York City. The talks this year brought Reed Krakoff, Stefano Pilati and Dries Van Noten in-front of an audience for an intimate interview followed by a Q&A opened up to guests.
Stefano Pilati took to the stage last night, introduced by Glenda Bailey, Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar. He entered into a discussion with Pamela Goldin, Chief Curator of the Musee de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre about his life, career and work – with details of his recent departure from the house of Yves Saint Laurent surely on everyone’s minds.
Before the nitty gritty of the discussion, the talk highlighted the phenomenal work of Pilati who dropped out of school to began his career as an apprentice with Cerruti in Milan before moving to YSL in 2000. He was recruited to YSL by Tom Ford and he continued with the house long after Ford’s departure in 2004. With over 30 years experience in fashion including over a decade with YSL, Pilati’s design work as well as personal life has received a lot of interest in the press (during the talk Pilati admitted his time YSL went in three phases: “bad boy, party boy, good boy“) and whilst he has been criticised for moving away from the YSL heritage on several occasions, his legacy may yet be that of creating strong, subtle, charming and elegant designs with impeccable tailoring that remained true to YSL aesthetic but with his own modern and daring innovations.
I found Pilati to be very humorous last night. He was dry and witty “Well, to design without knowledge and understanding of fabrics I think is like cooking pasta without water,” he claimed, when he was asked about the influence of his background in fabric manufacturing on his design process. “Fabric is my greatest teacher,” he added.
Pilati had very positive things to say about his mentors and inspirations, particularly Miucca Prada and Mr St. Laurent, from whom he stated he learnt the importance of going with an initial feeling or gut instinct – to be spontaneous and always use one’s initiative. When asked about the highs and lows of his decade at YSL, Pilati explained (perhaps quite tactfully,) the high point was quite simply “that I lasted so long“. He was quick to point out there were no lows for him and that he felt very fortunate to have experienced being part of the brand (he also described YSL as a house of “love and principle“). He joked that he thought he was going to be fired after his first collection, one he holds in mind as a favourite, simply because it was his first.
When asked about the future, Pilati was philosophical. He told us “It’s pretty beautiful, what happened to me.” However, one imagines Pilati will not be short of options over the coming months or years – though at present, he told us, he is planning a holiday….
Last night Pilati taught us the art of balancing a brand’s rich heritage alongside working at defining the future of fashion – with honesty, integrity and a great deal of humour.