Saint-Laurent gets a new creative hand at ready-to-wear helm


Gucci design chief Tom Ford made a much-anticipated appearance at Yves Saint-Laurent's haute couture collection in Paris yesterday. Twenty-four hours earlier it was announced that Ford will also assume overall creative responsibilities for Yves Saint-Laurent ready-to-wear and fragrance business, working with the current design team.

The Gucci Group officially acquired Yves Saint-Laurent on December 31st from French billionaire Francois Pinault. However, the haute couture business is still owned by Pinault, Saint-Laurent and his long-time business partner, Pierre Berge, and Saint-Laurent continues to design the collection.

Saint-Laurent's latest couture collection proves that after more than 40 years as a designer, he is still a talent to be reckoned with. He reworked some of his favourite themes, simplifying and modernising his tightly belted safari suits, making them look crisp, in a delicate porcelain blue, khaki and glamorous black and white combinations. His signature Le Smoking tuxedo is now a cropped fitted jacket with one button and a wide lapel, while the evening wear flourished Spanish toreador embroidery and gypsy coins. Tom Ford was the first to congratulate Saint-Laurent.

Ford has long been influenced by Saint-Laurent and there is much speculation on the direction in which he will take the ready-to-wear business.

Speaking from Saint-Laurent haute couture's perspective, Pierre Berge said after the show yesterday: "I am very pleased to know that Tom Ford has decided to direct that side of the business. I know him and his team are the best solution for the house." Asked if it would affect the haute couture business, he said it would have no impact and that couture would continue as long as Saint-Laurent wanted to continue designing.

Irish milliner Philip Treacy made a spectacular debut on the Paris haute couture catwalk on Tuesday evening with a perfectly crafted collection inspired by the exotic beauty of the orchid.

The 31-year-old from Ahascragh in Galway showed 25 vibrantly coloured cocktail hats from his spring collection, which had been carefully sculpted and hand-painted into gigantic blooms or feathered fireworks.

Naomi Campbell modelled three of his masterpieces, including a flamboyant black and turquoise hat that framed her face with a large halo of long spiky feathers.

Treacy said he believed he was asked by the Chambre Syndicale - the organisation behind the Couture collection - to put on a show because it was trying to encourage young designers to be part of haute couture.

"I felt it was an opportunity to make hats relevant in the year 2000 and it was wonderful to show hats in a young context on beautiful models," said Treacy.

The couture catwalk is not a new experience for the designer for, since his graduation from London's Royal College of Art 10 years ago he has produced hats for designers such as Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, who attended the show, and Alexander McQueen at Givenchy.

His glamorous hats also adorn the heads of celebrities such as Madonna, Celine Dion and Grace Jones, who will have the pick of the weird and wonderful creations he has just unveiled.