I’d worked for Yves Saint Laurent to explore the story in the context or retail design and brand strategy a year ago — working under the leadership of YSL President Laura Lendrum and her EVP | Retail Design, Claudia Cividino. The work was a gathering, a collective effort, using the methodologies of the BrandQuest® tools that our teams have created and evolved over the course of the last 20 years.

BrandQuest® work is a kind of activated jam session, intended to bring out the mind fullness and invention of a holistic collaboration — for the expression of innovation — in evolving brands, lead by a constituency of client staff and Girvin teams. But it’s not only focusing on business strategy, cultural change and the bottom line outcomes, but as well the human component of brands. How does it feel? And feeling is a very difficult — and emotional (which is of course all about movement and intention) — character to pin down. Feelings are entirely subjective, so very difficult to qualify, let alone quantify. More so, to challenge is the idea that knowing the feelings of a brand, a business, a culture is something that’s liquid, it flows; and, more over, it’s completely subjective. You ask someone how they might feel about an image, and the reaction could be entirely different, depending on the person. Doing these workshops is always capturing the diversity of view. But in working with the leadership, what invariably happens in the facilitation of the sessions is that there is give and take — and middle, even happy grounding, is found.

I’ve been thinking about feelings — what feelings emerge in working with people, listening to them, connecting with them.

And I noted that sense of feeling, in fashion, in connecting with a purchasing community at YSL. There’s something to the notion of reaching to, connecting with, community. Community is where communion happens, where communication occurs. So, for a men’s fashion line, Stefano offered a new strategy. YSL, instead, plans to hold a private dinner presentation for a selection of editors and buyers, where people actually get to touch and check out the clothes.

“There is something about the men’s way to communicate fashion that, at least for me is not correct. It doesn’t speak to the kind of people I would like to speak. So, I am looking for a more personal interaction. So, probably we will do a sort of presentation that is like a preview,” explained Stefano Pilati, YSL’s creative director.

To the notions of connection, and connectivity — there are layers. And that’s part of the story of the quest work with YSL. That is, what’s the story — what’s the line of connection in the brandstory from Monsieur Saint Laurent, the foundational genius, the transitions of Tom Ford, and finally, the newer fashion stylistic illuminations of Stefano. “ATTEMPTING to find oneself an identity when working at a house founded by Yves Saint Laurent that was most recently blasted into the headlines by Tom Ford can’t be the easiest job in fashion, but Stefano Pilati’s second attempt was nothing if not valiant. Where Ford upset Saint Laurent by being overtly sexy, Pilati has a grown up, covered up leaning that is bound to please the grand master of the label”, offers Cathy Horyn, in her assessment of a recent lineup.

In her analyses “At Saint Laurent, a Blueprint for the Future“, she proffered —

“Stefano Pilati hit on a look that not only seemed right for the brand but also didn’t resemble anything else we have seen this season on the Paris runways.

But what can be said is that a designer has finally set down the blueprint for what Saint Laurent should be in the future. Three designers have tried: Alber Elbaz, Tom Ford and Mr. Pilati, who has done four women’s collections and in January had a men’s show that raised doubts about his vision for the French house. On Thursday, though, Mr. Pilati hit on a look that not only seemed right for the brand but also didn’t resemble anything else we have seen this season on the Paris runways.” (March 4, 2006)

The point is to consider the foundation designer legacy, gather the genetic character — the essence — of that story, that genius, and to reflect on what can be retained in the brandstory as the program continues to evolve. At the one, there’s a celebration of the original brand essence; and the second level – the evolving layer — to consider how new talent can be embraced and maximized. There’s a promotion that links to the brand of the past — and the audiences that hold that vision to heart — and to evolve that sensibility to the future: new designer, new spirit — yet, a holding of the past.

My gesture is about the character in evolution. It’s about attention. What does the relationship hold? What does someone, that has a relationship to the brand, hold in their heart? And hold, potentially, in the memory. Heart and memory. Holding. That’s the space that brands are resilient, malleable, transitional.

In our YSL brandquest® reviews, we found that most of the customers had a relationship Monsieur Saint Laurent — there’s something profound in the legacy of the man, the story, the legend. There was a transmogrification in the transition to Tom Ford, there’s surely captivation in his visions and interpretations of the story, making it his story, that wholly overpowered that legacy. Stefano is about a return. And we learned that as well. Other brands capture some sense of this transitional slide to a new basis of message, design and beauty. The spirit of Gabrielle Chanel, in the disciplined renderings of Karl Lagerfeld. Ghesquiere in Balenciaga.

What’s the story, who cares, who listens, who holds it to heart?

That’s the point of the work.