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PARIS Spring 2004
When in the fall of 1999, Gucci Group acquired the Rive Gauche label, leaving Saint Laurent in charge of the Haute Couture line, as well as the website, Tom Ford spoke with bravado about the changes he would soon make. Having rescued Gucci from near bankruptcy in the late 90s, he entered into the Saint Laurent deal as the 'King of Cool', determined to work the same magic for the company's stockholders. Noted for his business acumen, the bottom line had arguably more to do with the balance sheet, than with artistic innovation.

And so Ford set about his task of "resurrecting" a dusty label by getting in fast with a look, then moving on to another, hitting the over saturated consumer with a series of images. He copied Saint Laurent's collection for Christian Dior in the fall of '59 by tying his women up in bows; he stole the tortoise shell glasses and white suit that Yves wore in the 70s for his men's show in January of 2001. For Spring of 2003, Ford presented a women's collection of dresses slit to resemble vaginas and complimented with phallic pendants as accessories, and in the most recent edition, he got stuck in an edgy androgynous look that contrasted notably with the graceful and ultra-feminine elegance that was seen on most other Paris runways.

As for the maître, Yves Saint Laurent retired from couture with a retrospective show staged in the Pompidou Centre in January of 2002. Since then, he has divided his time between Marrakech, where he owns a villa, and his Paris apartment on Rue de Babylon. Among other things, he's been taking drawing lessons and is said to be typing out his memoirs on an old fashioned machine. While normally avoiding the limelight, he did voice his personal feelings of Tom Ford's work for YSL last July at the opening of a boutique of his former accessories designer Loulou de la Falaise. "Poor thing," he told Fashion Wire Daily. "He does the best he can."

Ironically, at the end of Tom Ford's 3-year stint at Rive Gauche, the financial pressure has become the motivating factor - the reason why François Pinault, jealously eyeing the climbing profits of arch-rival Bernard Arnault of LVMH, is eager for change.

Last summer, in an interview with, Mr. Ford made his opinion clear. "I have no plans to hand over either collection. I don¹t want to get into that at all," he said. "I¹m not going anywhere."

Recently, he has been more tightlipped, consistently ducking questions from the press.

While the story continues to play itself out, one editor has drawn her own conclusion. In a review for the New York Times published in October of 2002, Cathy Horyn wrote "If these clothes appeared under the name of a less distinguished house, nobody would pay attention."