Contretemps

I’ve been hearing for weeks the rumor that designer Stefano Pilati was about to get axed

Yves Saint Laurent in London

from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Now it’s been picked up by my friend Richard Johnson at Page Six:

The next fashion designer to get the ax could be Stefano Pilati, who replaced Tom Ford at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. “Paris has been flooded with rumors that Pilati’s position is under threat and that headhunters have been actively interviewing potential replacements,” Godfrey Deeny reports on Fashion Wire Daily…

“No surprise,” was the reaction when I ran the rumor past a fashion editor friend of mine last week. I agree. Besides not doing much for the house design or sales-wise, he is horribly unreliable. I had my own experience first hand when he stood me up for an interview for Newsweek back on a Sunday afternoon in June, 2007—after weeks of rescheduling it by his people and four days before my several-page-long story was due. I was told he didn’t show up was because he was too busy doing fittings. The real reason? He was attending parties at the Venice Biennale. After three more days of the press office promising me they would make the interview happen, he blew me off entirely. I begged the Gucci Group brass to produce Frida Giannini of Gucci as a replacement, and kindly and quickly they did. While I was writing the piece at record speed, a gigantic bouquet of roses arrived from Pilati with a note, not apologizing, mind you, but simply explaining he had missed our rendez-vous due to a “contretemps.” I wanted to send the flowers back, but was too busy writing to deal with it, much less get them in water. Once the piece was published, I sent Pilati a note saying I enjoyed seeing photos of him in Women’s Wear Daily at his “contretemps” and that it was too bad we’d never officially meet since I decided never to put myself in the position of getting stood up by him again. I have not written about Pilati or Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche since then. Until today.

Stephano Pilati

Back in the days when couture houses were small and family-owned and run, such

Hasegawa Kyoko wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 2003

behavior was excused, even coddled—particularly at Yves Saint Laurent. The only other designer who didn’t show up for an interview with me in my 25 years of covering fashion was Yves Saint Laurent himself: he slipped out the back door of his office at 5, avenue Marceau rather than meet with me. What is it with that house??

But these days, luxury brands are run by executives who want to make money and doing things like alienating the mainstream press and making clothes that don’t sell aren’t seen as charming, eccentric or avant-garde anymore. Business is business.

Which makes the industry talk that Olivier Theyskens—who was sacked from both Rochas and Nina Ricci for producing complicated clothes that don’t sell—is a leading candidate for the Saint Laurent gig an extremely puzzling thought. Doesn’t YSL CEO Valerie Hermann have Google?

Or maybe Theyskens simply has The Gilroy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vON_uWFyrgE

* Hint magazine is now reporting that Pilati has just signed a new three-year contract at Saint Laurent, after Raf Simons, designer for Jil Sander, and Hedi Slimane, the ever eccentric Frenchman who once designed the Saint Laurent men’s wear line, turned down the job. That should give Hermann plenty of time to find just the right person to replace Pilati.