March 9, 2010 / 11:41 AM / 7 years ago

Yves Saint Laurent CEO says too early for optimism

PARIS, March 9 (Reuters) - After a tough 2009, the head of French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent thinks it is too early to be optimistic despite growing signs consumer spending is on the rise.

Having just watched a presentation of the maison's austere collection for next autumn and winter, YSL Chief Executive Valerie Hermann was in sync with the fashion house's sombre fashion mood.

"We have all been very affected by the year 2009, so we are very careful," Hermann told Reuters after the show late on Monday. "It is true that there is more optimism than in mid-2009, but I think we have to wait, to be reasonable and draw lessons of what happened in 2009."

The fashion house, which broke even during the downturn year of 2008, slipped to a loss in 2009 after suffering a 12 percent drop in comparable sales.

YSL was hit hard by a slump in demand from U.S. wholesalers and a drop in spending in western Europe. But Hermann said people were starting to open their wallets again.

"We do feel there is a rebound, that there is a genuine desire to buy," she said.

In February, U.S. retailers saw their best monthly sales since the beginning of the recession.

Plastic Capes

Yves Saint Laurent sits alongside Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Bottega Veneta and Sergio Rossi within the Gucci Group, owned by French retailer PPR (PRTP.PA).

YSL designer Stefano Pilati unveiled a collection of black suits and dresses fitted with detachable clear plastic mini-capes, which drew praise from singer Kylie Minogue.

"The clear plastic sheets are fabulous. I am loving capes. I have always loved capes. All the best people wear capes. Superman, Wonderwoman, me tonight," Minogue said.

Pilati's 2010 autumn/winter collection also included ensembles of dresses and blouses fitted with a judge's large neck bands. It also featured a bright emerald satin blouse with puffed out "power shoulders" -- a running theme for next season.

Like Stuart Vevers at Loewe and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Pilati also adorned his stilettos with tufts of fur, but his came down in a thin mawhawk-style line on the heel.

Pilati said his silhouettes this year were longer, pants were wider and lower on the hips. Suits are dresses were accessorized with long heavy gold pendants.

"I wanted to pay tribute to Yves Saint Laurent's 1970s style," Pilati said.

His show was presented in the Paris Grand Palais on the same day a retrospective exhibition of Saint Laurent's work was unveiled in the nearby Petit Palais.

Saint Laurent, known for his women's tuxedo suits, safari-style jackets and opulent sequined dresses inspired by famous painters, died on June 1 2008 in Paris at the age of 72. (Editing by David Holmes)

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