It may have been four weeks since Yves Saint Laurent announced the departure of creative director Stefano Pilati, but last night he certainly didn’t look like a man who just lost his job. A smiling Pilati stepped out onto the stage at the French Institute Alliance Française to chat with Pamela Golbin, curator of fashion and textiles at Paris’s Les Arts Décoratifs, in front of a sold-out audience for the second installment of FIAF’s annual spring Fashion Talks series. It was the first time Pilati spoke publicly after leaving the job. “I’m really happy,” he said.
Golbin talked with the Milan-born designer about his career, from his beginnings as a Nino Cerruti intern in Milan and gigs at Armani, Prada, and Miu Miu. Tom Ford eventually came calling, appointing Pilati design head of Yves Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear collection in 2000. “Tom has such a self-confidence that you can really absorb it,” said Pilati. “He has enough for everybody around him, and I definitely got it.”
Pilati also discussed what it was like designing for the house while its namesake was still living. “It was complicated because I believe — and this is not polemic — [of] the fact that he was alive and the fact that he was such a master,” said Pilati.
After Saint Laurent died in 2008, Pilati said things changed at the company. “I could really feel that the fact that his physical presence wasn’t there — in a way gave me a sense of freedom.”
When the company, which is owned by PPR, told Pilati to make it profitable, he took the request seriously. “I put aside my ego, I put aside my freedom, and I worked hard to respond to what the market was asking for,” he said.
During his tenure at Yves Saint Laurent, Pilati admitted to being afraid they would fire him after his first collection. He was both panned and lauded in the press – several of his designs, like the Tribute Sandal and the Tulip Skirt, were hits – but that didn’t daunt him. “To be controversial is to make people think and that’s something important,” he said.
And his future plans? “Loads, loads, and loads of vacation.”
Click on the video below to watch highlights from Stefano Pilati's FIAF Fashion Talk.