It appears that Stefano Pilati has emerged strong from his breakup with Yves Saint Laurent, the house that he helmed from 2004 to 2012. On Saturday he made his first post-YSL runway outing, staging his debut collection as head designer for Ermenegildo Zegna in his hometown of Milan.
A break from fashion seems to have worked in Pilati’s favor. He was ousted from YSL’s top spot last February to make room for Hedi Slimane’s controversial takeover, and the brief hiatus from design appears to have brought a sense of leavened clarity to his work. The intellectual gloom signature to his designs for YSL was present on the Zegna spring 2014 men’s runway, but held an airier edge.
The collection, anchored with a pair of simple, tailored pants (fabricated in an array of fabrics and colors), beheld qualities resembling Pilati’s own personal style of dress—a delicate mix of Italian suave, monastic conservatism, and Fourties’ utilitarianism. His Zegna presentation employed strongly layered styling as a technique to marry each of the qualities with seamless cohesion. Shirtcuffs were pulled up over fine-gauge sweaters, to a Newsies-type effect. Flat leather sandals, pale-blue jacquard pants, and a suede cerulean jacket topped off a simple white crew-neck shirt—creating a polished aesthetic, albeit with a roughened, slightly lax energy.