DEATH affects us all in different ways. Some sob. Others sell. Within 24 hours of Yves Saint Laurent's passing last Sunday, EBay was flooded with everything and anything that bore the designer's moniker or acronym -- from a $5 vintage pack of YSL Polish cigarettes to an Yves Saint Laurent paper shopping bag that was "used" but in "very good condition" and priced at 99 cents. (Oddly, shipping for the shopping bag was $8.95.)
According to the online auction behemoth, sales of YSL-related items jumped 75% on the day following the designer's death; merchandise listed under the designer's full name went up 56.25%. Feeling overcome with grief and seeking retail solace, I scrolled through hundreds of new listings until I pounced on a vintage red YSL purse that felt like a fitting $250 homage.
"We last saw this type of spike when Tom Ford left YSL and then Gucci," says EBay style director, Constance White. As far as Saint Laurent, "The most coveted items will be his safari suits and Le Smoking jackets."
Got it. But don't expect to score these designs for an aria on EBay. A fantastic YSL Rive Gauche belted safari suit -- think Lauren Hutton pouting atop an elephant -- sold for $699 last month. You can expect to bid more like $1,000 now. The Le Smoking tuxedo, which was originally designed in 1966 and convinced every women that she had an inner-Garbo, has yet to make a peep in an online auction house. (In 2004, a pristine Le Smoking couture tux fetched $2,688 at Doyle New York auction house.)
Monday, however, a YSL Rive Gauche tuxedo jumpsuit from the early 1970s goes on sale at Freeman's auction house in Philadelphia. (You can also bid online.) With tapered legs and a fussy pleated waistline, it's not nearly as sleek or feline as the iconic ensembles shot by Helmut Newton in 1975 or worn by Bianca Jagger. But, hey, right now, it's valued at a mere $300 to $400.
"A year ago, it went unsold," says Freeman's couture specialist Olivia Snyder, who says that the market for fashion can be incredibly fickle and bizarre. "Is it art or used clothing is the question and I guess the bidding will answer that."
Vintage collector Cameron Silver anticipates another "YSL renaissance" but adds that Saint Laurent's 2002 official retirement already caused a stir among collectors. "Very few designers have died in the height of their careers," he says. When Gianni Versace was suddenly slain in 1997, his flamboyant clothes were hardly in vogue at the time and didn't incite a stampede. "It just wasn't a Versace moment."
Meaning, of course, that even death is subject to the whims of fashion.
Read Monica Corcoran's daily blog, All the Rage, at latimesblogs.latimes .com/alltherage.