NEW YORK-Less than a week after the dramatic introduction of his spring and summer haute couture collection in Paris, Yves Saint Laurent sent his pre-fall ready-to-wear clothes to New York. The show was workmanlike, not grand. Retailers sat at tables flanked by their assistants with lists of style numbers and prices in front of them.
Instead of having the grand runway at the Hotel Intercontinental decorated with floral displays worthy of Versailles, the models slipped into their dresses behind some screens in the back of the company's Fifth Avenue offices.
But the first styles that were shown by Saint Laurent here last week had the same knee-grazing hemlines that characterized his Paris collection. And store buyers, seeking merchandise to show in their stores as early as June (for customers who like to have their fall wardrobe on hand when they return from summer vacations), were just as pleased as their counterparts were in Paris.
Those first skirts that set the scene were in dark plaids and shown with velvet jackets, traditional fall fare. The skirts had soft drapery over the hips and the hemlines were slightly lifted at one side.
"It's a nice way to ease women into the longer look," said Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus.
Like many of the retail executives interviewed at the shows, she was not eager to face a hemline imbroglio.
"If the longer styles look nice, we will buy them," she said. "We look at them as another option. I would like to see women wear shorter skirts three days a week, a long skirt the fourth and pants the fifth. That way nothing becomes obsolete in a wardrobe, and women can dress to fit their mood."
The moderate Saint Laurent skirt lengths were also seen in coats and dresses. A single ankle-length long slender skirt with buttons at the sides was shown for evening, along with many black trousers and knee-length dresses.
Valentino, who showed two different pre-fall collections Boutique is for day clothes, Night for evening kept most of his skirts short as he did in his Paris couture presentation. But in each show, there was a single long style. For day, this was a full-cut plaid skirt with buttons down the front. It was shown opened over a very short red cashmere skirt. The evening style was also in a casual mood. It was a tweed skirt flecked with gold thread and shown with matching sweaters.