Saint Laurent and Rykiel give their customers looks to love as they tick off commercial must-have lists

Paris labels love a mini skirt. They love a skinny silhouette, too. But what they love most are collections that will sell. And sell. And sell. And that holds true whether their creative directors are immersed in the heart of Paris or based thousands of miles away in LA.

This basic fact was illustrated perfectly Monday by two of Paris’s biggest (and most venerable) names – Saint Laurent and Sonia Rykiel. Let other cities experiment with longer skirts and baggy pants. These two know what their customer wants to buy.

LA-based Hedi Slimane has transformed Saint Laurent in the past couple of years and yesterday did what he does best – sending out a tweaked version of the Saint Laurent look with plenty of the biker jackets, skinny pants and short dresses his customers love.

Add in the season’s newest ankle boot, a few androgynous pantsuits, some capes, a 70s-into-80s mini-crini silhouette and there you have it – another collection to set the tills ringing.

The critics praised his commercial savvy, although underlying each report there was just a hint of unease about such a templated approach to fashion. But you can’t argue with the figures – the last period for which we have then showed Saint Laurent turnover up 28% (while Kering stablemate Gucci’s sales fell).

Retailers who stock Saint Laurent love this. Retailers who see Saint Laurent as a major source of inspiration do too because they see it’s a treasure trove of edgily commercial ideas season after season.

Which brings us to Sonia Rykiel, a label that couldn’t be more different from Saint Laurent, but one that yesterday showed a similar approach: know your customer, give her what she wants.

The mood created by Julie de Libran and her team was a world away from Saint Laurent’s trashy bad girl. Instead this was what WGSN’s Jaclyn Jones called “70s college girl,” personified by Kate Moss’s little sister Lottie in her first-ever runway appearance.

The catwalk was set with 50,000 books lining the shelves surrounding the runway as models walked out in head-to-toe velvet, striped furs, and over-the-knee socks.

Retro colour stories of cognac, black, and neutrals were offset by modern metallic silver leather and navy blue brushed mohair in oversized sweaters. The key lengths mini, the cut slim and jumpsuits made a major statement in deep velvet solids and patterns with cape attachments creating extra drama along with the plunging necklines.

This was all about clothes that would sell and the commercial reality behind all the runway razzmatazz was rammed home by the show coinciding with the unveiling of a new pop-up concept for the brand – after all, the runway shows are all about selling and the store is the ultimate destination for all those clothes.

WWD reported that the store on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris was transformed into a café-cum-library as part of the pop-up concept. The London and Tokyo boutiques will also be made-over next month, with a permanent new store concept due to be rolled out next year.

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