Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Stefano Pilati

(Junenoire Photography)

Sure, you think you know Stefano Pilati, who last month stepped down as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent. Born in Milan, groomed at Prada (where he sourced fabrics and later designed for Miu Miu), and plucked by Tom Ford to run ready-to-wear clothing design for YSL in 2000, Pilati went on to prove himself an accessory design savant—the house beat profitability targets thanks in large part to his eminently hoardable Tribute sandals and Muse bags—and filled the runway with a daringly diverse range of critical hits (sharp suiting, epic capes, measured flounces), misses (sufficed to say he does not have a flair for the nautical), and misses-turned-hits (two words: tulip skirt). Pilati’s present “vacation” gave him the opportunity to visit New York, where last week he sat down with Pamela Golbin, chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris, as part of a series of fashionable conversations hosted by the French Institute Alliance Française. We listened carefully and picked up these ten things you (probably) didn’t know about Stefano Pilati, including what’s next for the charming designer:

10. He’s not crushed or particularly sad about that fact that his YSL contract was not renewed. “Great. Absolutely great” is how he described his state of mind. “I’m very happy, which is unusual for me,” he said, gesturing to the capacity crowd at Florence Gould Hall. “People are interested to listen to me—what more do you want?”
9. He originally wanted to be a land surveyor but quit midway through his certification courses to intern at Nino Cerruti.
8. Complex? Yes. Cool? No. He singled out “cool” as being the most overrated thing in fashion and confessed to wishing the world would up its elegance quotient. “If fashion was elegant,” he said. “It would be nicer to walk around and see people.”
7. When he interviewed for a gig designing womenswear at YSL, he didn’t show Tom Ford him any sketches. “I said I didn’t have any,” explained Pilati with a shrug. Ford later exacted a bit of revenge on his dapper new hire. “One week later, Tom told me ‘I forgot, you have to do menswear as well.'”
6. Nobody has inspired him more than Miuccia Prada, who he praised for her “exceptional, original mind.”

5. He has a passion for Japanese designers. “I’m really happy that the CFDA is giving [this year’s international award] to Rei Kawakubo,” said Pilati. “I think there’s justice in this life.”
4. He thinks Americans are less judgmental than Europeans. “In Europe, maybe they’re more critical of fashion—spoiled, blasé, snobbish,” he said. “In America, they’re more appreciative. They’re more joyful. They loooove that bag.”
3. He didn’t think the death of Yves Saint Laurent, an “incomparable master” that he met several times, would affect him…but it did. “I could really feel that his physical presence wasn’t there anymore, and it gave me a sense of freedom.”
2. That scene in The September Issue in which he previews his dusky-hued collection for visiting dignitary Anna Wintour? It bothered him at first. “The reality was that was a great collection, very successful and highly appreciated,” he said, “In fact, I have a splendid relationship [with Wintour], and I can assure you that you talk to her, she looks at you.” He’s over it, having learned to “be very careful not to be used for the sake of the narrative.”
1. Good news: we haven’t seen (or heard) the last of Stefano Pilati. “Unless I try to stay on vacation forever, I’m pretty sure that I have the energy and knowledge at least to try to do something relevant, something that’s part of what people need,” he said toward the end of the conversation. “In life you build something, you can trace a path, so somehow I want to extend mine.”