Stefano Pilati went back to North Africa for his new collection, specifically the milieu of the American writer Paul Bowles, whose life in Tangier became a benchmark for outsiders everywhere. Pilati's is a different sort of fascination with Morocco than the love affair with Marrakech that Saint Laurent, the house's founder, enjoyed.
The sober palette; the coats and jackets drawn in with a belt; the high-waisted, pleated pant; the Bakelite sunglass frames all refracted the dress sense of a man with mildly bohemian leanings in the forties, the decade in which Bowles began his self-imposed exile. Pilati, though, mutated it with North African references. The side vents of the jackets were slit so they opened like a djellaba, the footwear was sandals, and some of the models wore fezes. There were smock shirts, accents of leopard spot, and a black silk tunic. A single print was a little like an abstracted version of midday sun glaring through wooden blinds. Any of this you could imagine as part of the semi-assimilated Bowles' wardrobe. The bubble shorts, worn high and belted, looked more like the kind of item sported by his wife, Jane, which meant they injected some of the sexual ambiguity that Pilati favors in his work.
Pilati showed just 25 looks, and from the fluid tailoring to the tunic to the leopard, it felt like he was revisiting his greatest hits. When this designer dropped in on Bowles last time, it was a radically different time in the world, and he was riding high. The trip back seemed like a man returning to the scene of earlier triumphs in a reflective mood. A little triste, perhaps.