It might still be Saint Laurent, but YSL is most certainly back...
The game of musical chairs is one of fashion’s favourite sports – not a season goes by without designers leaving, coming back, switching houses… But even with that in mind, this season is a biggie – with not one, not two, but three major debuts awaiting thumbs up (or down) emojis from the fashion crowd.
Last night was all about Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent
. And if the Belgian-Italian, 34, wasn’t so cool and calm about it all, you’d feel sorry for him. Hedi Slimane
, the previous creative director, didn’t so much blow the cobwebs off one of France’s most iconic houses as set it on fire.
He rebranded the house, reinvented its logo and image as per his own cool, indie-music-infused aesthetic – and increased revenues by over £200 million in just one year of his tenure, making it one of Paris’ biggest commercial success stories. A task that would put any designer following in his footsteps off their sketchbook.
Here are the messages we received loud and clear (via the medium of catwalk) from Vaccarello’s debut…
1. It might still be Saint Laurent, but YSL is back
The sight that greeted us on arrival – a giant neon YSL logo suspended from a red white and blue crane in the night sky over the venue – was about as clear as, ooh, a large neon sign. The site of the show, a giant concrete-arched building formerly used by the Ministry of Defence, is being renovated as the new house HQ. Slimane famously lost the ‘Yves’, renaming the house Saint Laurent, but Vaccarello welcomed back the original logo – designed by Yves himself in the 1960s. He emblazoned it up models’ ears in the form of earrings, across sheer tights and as the heel of sky-high stilettos.
2. Sexy is always sexy
Vaccarello’s previous job was designing Donatella Versace’s Versus label. There, and at his own eponymous label (now on hiatus while he concentrates on Saint Laurent), one thing he was never accused of was designing man-repelling clothes. Nope, leaving tricky shapes and intellectual reverie to others, his signatures are body-conscious and relentlessly sexy. This collection took it to a new level – the nipple wasn’t just freed, it was celebrated in several looks. One of Binx Walton’s was decorated with a crystal pastie (the other was covered by her asymmetric dress) and one of Vaccarello’s favourite models, Anja Rubik, stalked down the runway in a tiny black leather minidress that finished just above the waist – the entire top half was sheer chiffon, with nipples on full display. Black leather dominated, and if hems were any shorter, they’d have been classed as belts. These looks were clothes for the kind of party girls who aren’t worried about post-dinner bloat – because they don’t do dinner.
3. The Eighties – more than acceptable
Looking through the archive on his arrival at the house, Vaccarello said his starting point for the collection was an 80s dress with exaggerated sleeves. He was inspired by the woman who ‘draws references from the 1980s to make them her own. This girl who cultivates a taste for what is kitsch, the bizarrely beautiful.’ This period of the house isn’t an obvious reference point – Yves famously defined fashion in the Sixties and Seventies with his radical takes on mens’ tuxedos, easy safari dresses and exotic peasant blouses. In the 1980s, his sequinned gala-dinner gowns and huge shoulders weren’t so radical – but fashion’s 80s obsession means it’s these pieces that cool girls give their eye-teeth for in vintage shops now. Vaccarello’s new translation is hyper-inflated – his giant leg of mutton sleeves, leather dresses with waist-plunging sweetheart necklines and draped gold lamé would make actual 80s pieces look sweetly old-fashioned. Clever.
4. Le Smoking is forever
Vaccarello’s take on the house’s most iconic look was an impeccable sleeveless tux with frayed shoulders, worn with slouchy slit trousers. Black suiting popped up in several razor-sharp iterations – a cropped jacket, and an exquisite collarless long-line version – both worn with skinny trousers and sheer boob-baring blouses, obviously.
All in all? It was a savvy move on for the Saint Laurent girl, taking her out of Slimane’s underground indie scene and into a sexier setting – but with enough edge to appeal to the house’s new young generation of fans, the ones who’ll be stalking the sell-out shoes on Instagram and buying the bags. Some critics have called it a little one-note, but sometimes, you don’t want to dilute your message, and will certainly find itself in YSL’s most memorable show moments
This week also sees the hotly anticipated catwalk debuts from Bouchra Jarrar, who’s been appointed as artistic director of women’s collections at Lanvin, and Maria Grazia Chiuri (previously of Valentino) at Dior. Stay tuned…