Power—who has it? who's losing it?—is an international obsession. This season, it's also a fashion preoccupation, possibly because there hasn't been a time in living memory when so many people had so little of it. Stefano Pilati's latest show for Yves Saint Laurent focused on power's fashion-friendly handmaidens: sex and money. Pilati managed to weave his themes into the heritage of the house. Back in the days when sex ruled the underground, it was, according to Pilati, more powerful than money. Now there's no more underground,
but there are still photos of Saint Laurent in the seventies, looking and feeling transgressive in his big black coat. So that was where Pilati took his collection.
The setting he created was the place where sex and money came to play—the art world. A huge Twombly-esque chalkboard backdrop was actually a smudgy transcript of a Warhol interview. The staticky electronica of Scanner on the soundtrack was collaged with art-world legend Sam Wagstaff discussing the mechanics of collecting. And the style of Wagstaff's boyfriend, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, slowly insinuated itself into the show.
Half of the collection was founded on precise military-influenced tailoring, like the peacoats and cavalry coats, some with luxuriant fur trims, and the double-breasted jackets. In this context, they were the lingua franca of wealthy men, but Pilati perverted their authority with black leather, the currency of fetishistic sex. He started stealthily with a leather trim, a lapel, a collar, then added quilted shoulders, tees, waistcoats. Money may talk loudest now, but Pilati allowed it to be overwhelmed by sex. Mapplethorpe's self-portrait in a biker jacket set the tone. The key details were buckles and straps. Shoes were cased in metal. Picture the clothes on Mapplethorpe's models and you saw how close to the bone Pilati had gotten. He had a brigade of unthreatening male models instead, but a sweater with a razor-blade motif (another Mapplethorpe element) suggested a sinister subtext: the unthreatening surface concealing the lethally hard edge.