PARIS, OCT. 22 -- They saved the longest of the Paris fashion shows for the final day: the collection of Yves Saint Laurent, who has been celebrating his 25 years in business with retrospective shows in Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, Paris and New York. "He showed us all there was for 25 years and then he showed us more," said Lynn Manulis of Martha's in New York, at today's exhibition.
There were the knits and the poplins he always does, and the bright colors in jackets he showed as recently as the last couture collection in July. And there were festive ruffled blouses and Pierrot poufs. It was a good reminder of the range of this designer.
But there wasn't much new, other than jacket shapes detailed with flat gold buttons, wonderful white jackets with navy blue short skirts, and an array of ballerina dresses that could outfit a Washington dance company. It is hard to imagine who will wear them off the stage, but it was good theater.
There were a few other changes. For the first time in 10 years the designer showed menswear with his women's clothes. He wanted to make the point that men can wear many of the same styles women do. Of course jeans and blazers, but how about a man in an off-the-shoulder T-shirt? Or in a ruffle-edged wrap blouse? Perhaps in California, but certainly not Washington.
According to Gustav Zumsteg of the prestigious Swiss textile house Abraham, inspiration for the YSL prints came from contemporary art. "Yves has made a huge effort this time, working on his fabrics as long ago as last June," said Zumsteg, a good friend of the designer. "He felt there is so much confusion about fashion today it was the moment for him to give direction."
If there was much familiar on stage at today's YSL show, there was one subtle change in the audience. Catherine Deneuve, Paloma Picasso and others were in the front row, but the whole gang from Women's Wear Daily, the influential trade paper, was given no seats. The snub started last season when Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's clever and forceful business partner, objected to the lukewarm reviews WWD gave the designer. It apparently doesn't concern Berge that WWD will review the collection without seeing it. The paper's publisher, John Fairchild, "doesn't need to see a collection to have an opinion," Berge said.
American-born designer Patrick Kelly also reviewed some of the things he had done in the past. But since his runway career is only two years old, there was less to play with.
What there was, however -- the bows, the button trims, the stretchy-slinky-sexy styles -- was shown with refreshed color and detail. The bows were now embroideries, the buttons now wooden rather than colorful plastic or gold-colored metal and the stretch fabric now perforated with patterns or textured with tufting and sparkling with sequins like a mermaid costume.
Kelly hasn't forgotten his own beginnings in Vicksburg, Miss. There were denims, including oversized overalls he's now cut into a jumper, and bandanna prints in stretch fabric. Bags and hats were the shape and color of watermelons, and one bra top of raffia was made to look like a watermelon, too. Last year his unusual print was like brickwork. This year he has taken authentic African designs and and printed them on stretch fabric.
He has never wandered too far from what he does well, and each year does it better. For the first time he has substantial financial backing, which shows in the improved quality of each garment.
After a fairly lackluster season, it was an upbeat way to end the week.