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Best of the Best 2002: Style: Best Designer Collections

William Kissel

Midas Touch
Tom Ford’s creative vision and marketing acumen put Gucci back on the map and 4 million shares of the company’s stock in his pocket when the 81-year-old Italian luxury brand was delivered into the hands of French billionaire François Pinault last year. Soon after, naysayers thought the inexhaustible Ford had bitten off more than he could chew when he supplanted fashion sensation Hedi Slimane at the design helm of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. After all, how could one man possibly oversee design for both Italian and French luxury goods houses?

Yet, with three collections for YSL under his 32-inch belt, the hardest-working man in fashion somehow manages to lead the apparel industry in whatever direction he takes. His trim silhouettes for YSL last season helped spark a return to tailored sportswear. Now, while the rest of the establishment is focusing on tailoring, Ford’s YSL collection of fluid jackets, draped V-neck sweaters, softly constructed trousers, and chunky knitwear is softening the sartorial mood.

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 800.832.3485

Cross Culture
It may seem incongruous to label Michael Kors’ tastefully appointed menswear collection a “debut.” In recent years, the celebrated women’s wear designer has tried his hand at men’s fashion—a wool and cashmere pea coat one season, a cashmere turtleneck the next. But fall 2002 marks the launch of his first large-scale men’s sportswear collection.

Kors, who uses his firsthand knowledge of the posh Palm Beach lifestyle to produce sophisticated women’s clothing, has deftly applied his patrician taste to men. Highlights of his collection include sumptuous 10-ply cashmere sweaters; cashmere and merino wool suits; classic camel topcoats and assorted leather, shearling, and fur jackets; and a line of limited edition jeans that are produced in-house to ensure quality.

Michael Kors, 212.221.1950, www.michaelkors.com

In Store
Louis Boston
makes a memorable first impression with its grand 45,000-square-foot neoclassical structure—once home to the New England Museum of Natural History. Architecture aside, what really sets Louis Boston apart is its commitment to providing an outlet for promising fashion talent.

Owner Murray Pearlstein and his daughter, Debi Greenberg, are always ahead of the fashion curve when it comes to new looks and designer labels, which they display in grand style on three floors. “How about giving the customer something he’s never been exposed to before?” says Pearlstein. “How about showing him something new that might elevate the way he looks and the way he perceives clothing?” For Pearlstein and Greenberg, that philosophy means steering clear of mass-marketed designer labels. Instead, they gravitate toward fashion individualists Helmut Lang, Dries Van Noten, and others who bring a unique and exclusive point of view to the Back Bay store.

Louis Boston is one of the few stores where the owners eschew merchandising matrixes—the finance sheets retailers use to determine how much space is devoted to a designer on the selling floor. Pearlstein and Greenberg have been known to risk their reputations on hot fashion newcomers such as this year’s Neil Barrett, Sandy Dalal, and Andrew Dibben, all of whom have seen their stars rise as a result of Louis’ approving nod.

Louis Boston, 800.225.5135, www.louisboston.com

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Photo by Ted Morrison