- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2012

PARIS (AP) - The standing ovation from Anna Wintour said it all.

Such rare, visible acclaim from the powerful US Vogue editor capped Monday’s Yves Saint Laurent show, an emotional farewell to designer Stefano Pilati after more than a decade at the helm of one of the fashion world’s most famous brands.

The sometimes temperamental Italian designer divided critics from the start of his tenure as creative director in 2004. He had a tough act to follow, stepping in then for Tom Ford.

After months of speculation, Pilati’s departure was only confirmed a week ago. The house credited him for “rebuilding and repositioning” the brand, and its parent company, PPR, pointed to a “giant step” up in profits last year.

Actress Catherine Deneuve, the longtime muse of the late, legendary Saint Laurent, was among the celebrities on hand for the final Pilati bow.

In other shows, Day 7 of Paris’ fall-winter collection saw Stella McCartney gave the English country manor a sporty revamp _ just in time for the London Olympics. Chloe, the house where ready-to-wear started, produced a wearable tale of two cities: London and Paris.

YVES SAINT LAURENT

Pilati’s final YSL collection was stronger and sharper than last season. Perhaps fittingly, it channeled black _ the color of mourning _ and chainmail, redolent of combat and self-defense.

From the outset, a tangibly fatalistic mood hovered in the air: the first model strode slowly down the 100-meter (328-foot) catwalk in a simple black hood.

But the seeming lightness of the materials diluted the fierceness of the clothes: Sharp-shouldered silhouettes with cinched waists managed to have an element of fragility.

A long black coat could have been inspired by the Matrix, but had the feel of a kimono and a softness in the leather. A chainmail dress looked delicate _ like the skin of a fish _ later echoed with finesse in chainmail printing.

A subdued mood with slimmer forms replaced the free volumes of previous seasons. Also gone were the palazzo pants and the Prince of Wales check of last fall, and with it most of the house’s DNA.

Stefano has given them lot of iconic things,” said actress Salma Hayek, on hand for the show. “This show was a homage not to the house, but to himself.”

The last piece was the exception that proved this rule. A gorgeous 1970s tuxedo suit, a single generous tribute from Pilati to the late, great Saint Laurent.

STELLA MCCARTNEY

McCartney went to the heart of the English countryside in a sporty show that mixed posh furniture patterns with stretchy tweeds and zipper _ and the London Olympics on her mind.

“Everyone has to bring in a touch of the Games, don’t they?” said the designer backstage, referring to the Olympics media frenzy that has taken over her home city.

Tweed short dresses were fit for the tennis court as stretchy inserts in ultra-white and blue contoured a silhouette that flared. Models in tightly pulled, gymnastic buns looked ready to forward flip down the catwalk.

This style worked well with the jackets’ athletic shoulders and necklines, accentuated by jacquards with graphic silk. Softer knitwear provided a halftime break from the sporty look.

A cardigan dress twin-set in soft washed out blue, and a palette of pinky and dusty rose added a feminine touch. However, in a couple of pieces, the hourglass shape in thick knit made bottoms look overly bulky.

One person who didn’t seemed to mind was Stella’s father, Paul McCartney, looking on from the side-row.

“It’s so beautiful, isn’t it?” said the former Beatle, “but I suppose I’m probably biased!”

CHLOE

Wearability and light shone from Chloe’s fall-winter collection Monday - unsurprising, perhaps, from the house whose founder coined the original phrase “ready-to-wear” more than 60 years ago.

A sense of spring, not fall, bloomed from the largely off-white array of diaphanous silk blouses, scattered pearls and applique lace flowers on display at a sky-lit showroom in Paris’ central Tuileries garden.

Dimensional patchwork in wool that was felted gave the knitwear a playful, sporty ease, with airy lace sweaters. Even the British military parka constructions were cushioned by padding and soft-quilted silks.

One knit effect Teddy shearling in a leather V-neck captured the bohemian chic look of the Glastonbury music festival - all with a Parisian neatness and sophistication.

Clare Waight Keller, who became Chloe’s new creative director in June, conceded that her move to Paris six months ago could help explain the cross-Channel contrasts in Monday’s collection.

“I’ve just come from London where there’s a different spirit,” she said backstage. “I love Paris, but the Chloe girl is somewhere in between.”

Tuesday’s shows include Chanel, Valentino and Alexander McQueen.