THE END OF ELEGANCE
YSL’S STEFANO PILATI EXPLAINS WHY FASHION MAY NEVER BE FASHIONABLE AGAIN
“Perhaps the epitome of women and glamour, at least in mainstream culture, is the red-carpet outfit –women in LA, wearing long gowns at 4 PM, all made up as if they were an anchorwoman on a newscast, with 1930s hairdos. It’s one of the most inelegant things imaginable. We have no icons of elegance; we don’t have a Grace Kelly. Are there any contemporary women whom you would consider exemplars of elegance?
Generally speaking, or referring specifically to Yves Saint Laurent?
My idea of elegance – and this refers to women as well as men – is that someone is elegant when he or she shows a good knowledge of what fits them, where you can find naturalness and self-esteem. Not showing off. Elegance is the idea of showing an optimistic depiction of oneself, and to lose oneself in the frivolity of style and fashion. Nowadays nobody gives a shit about being elegant, or chic. If you’re doing it, you’re doing it for yourself, because it’s your way of being. When you’re not thinking, “This is fashion,” and you’re not buying clothes to create statements, you’re on the right path. If fashion goes low waisted and you’re fat bottomed, well, forget it; don’t put slim-fitting jeans on. They’re going to look awful on you. You should dress in black; it would be better.
But seriously, it’s not easy to find elegant women. There are a few, the majority of whom are old – and there are one or maybe two in the world who created a new style when they were young. Today when I go to New York and survey art and fashion, I see smart women and the level is high. But there’s a difference between this and saying a woman is elegant.
Is the idea of fashion as part of contemporary culture – alongside music and art – still valid? Or has the market transformed the reality and perception of what is fashionable into some sort of abstraction?
Fashion is not fashion anymore. I am sure of this, but nobody realises this because the world is full of romantics like me – people who continue to believe in it. Now “fashionable” can mean anything. Everything is fashion. Anything can become fashion. A while ago, things were more elitist, and this allowed it to be more aspirational and directional, and this would inspire others. It might have even – to use a horrible term – “taught” others. Nowadays, what can you teach? I might make a collection in flannel, and then the next guy makes a collection using technical see-through nets. If somebody doesn’t know much about fashion, what can he draw from this? What can he learn? It makes no sense! He can’t use fashion as a road map, he’s lost. Nowadays, it’s all business.
The other problem is that fashion, as a system, is very insular and introverted. We constantly recycle the same concepts and express them through the same modes of representation. The moment you start making videos or move off the catwalk, most journalists will have no fucking clue what you’re doing because they don’t have the time, willingness, or culture to really understand something new. You’ll be misunderstood, and you’ll have no choice but to return to doing the things that follow the language everyone understands.