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By Timothy Hagy

Searching for the Sweet Spot

PARIS, January 31 - Robert Polet, newly-appointed CEO of the Gucci Group, the owner of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, sat front row beside Pierre Bergé on Sunday afternoon at the Rue d'Artois headquarters. That in itself is newsworthy, as the last time Bergé darkened the door at a Saint Laurent men's show was when Hedi Slimane was in charge of the label, and that was January 2000.

But this is a different era for the house, now trying to reposition itself, and to find, according to Mr. Polet, a "sweet spot". Whether that has happened yet or not remains to be seen, but what is certain is that European editors, especially French ones, are now coalescing around Italian designer Stefano Pilati, charged with reinventing the rive gauche line.

The elegant calligraphy of the vermilion invitations seemed to reference the color Saint Laurent used extensively in his Rue de Babylon apartment, and the clothes also hearkened back to the maître - a violet mohair overcoat, an evening jacket in midnight blue, an emerald tux worn with a printed silk scarf. There was a refined look to the collection, which was sent out over a red carpet: the silly Ford-esque playboy theme has fortunately been scotched, in favor of a look both solid and mature.

There was a graceful warmth to it all, and that isn't surprising coming from Pilati, who by all accounts is a nice enough guy - in love with perfumed candles, which he lights in his Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré apartment.


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