Anthony Vaccarello’s mission to build his version of Saint Laurent was plain to see on Tuesday night in Paris.
His second show for the house took place in the courtyard of the new HQ, which is still under construction. The assembled fashion crowd, including Kate Moss and Jane Birkin, took their places – with Saint Laurent-branded blankets handed out as an attempt to stave off any chill – on marble seating surrounded by scaffolding. A digger, presumably used by the construction team earlier in the day, formed the backdrop.
Vaccarello didn’t count on the rain, which began falling with the start of the show. But the designer couldn’t be accused of a lack of effort. This show, with diverse casting, was around 100 looks and three collections – one womenswear, one menswear and a finale of evening dresses.
Like his first collection, it was a collage of the brand’s rich history, mixed with Vaccarello’s own sexy take on glamour. “I love Monsieur Saint Laurent’s subversive approach to clothes, his dark romanticism with a hint of perversity,” the show notes read. “I wanted this collection to be like a re-reading, a radical fantasy of this heritage.”
A lot of those clothes looked set for the most hedonistic of nightclubs – of which Saint Laurent, in his youth anyway, was a fan. For womenswear, while there was a concession to daywear with skinny jeans and sweaters, 80s-style cocktail dresses dominated, made of everything from leather to vinyl, velvet and chiffon. Most looks were paired with ruched leather knee-high boots and a cone heel. Expect to see them in a lot of fashion shoots come autumn. The menswear featured slouchy tuxedo trousers, simple shirts and a selection of boxy jackets that will no doubt be replicated on the high street.
The finale provided the sucker punch – dresses, boots, shirts, sweatshirts, skirts, jackets all covered in crystals. An astute photo op intended to have #saintlaurent trending on social media within minutes. It even meant that those watching forgot – for a moment – about the rain.
Vaccarello’s approach is one that appeals to the digital native generation. “I think it’s not about changing identity,” the designer told the New York Times this month. “It’s about making it for now.” This chimes with Saint Laurent himself. He designed a collection based on beatnik style in 1960 and launched his ready-to-wear line Rive Gauche in 1967 in a bid to court younger customers.
The 37-year-old Vaccarello joined Saint Laurent in April 2016, following the departure of Hedi Slimane. He has a hard act – acts – to follow. Slimane’s era at Saint Laurent was incredibly financially successful – tripling the size of the brand in the four years he was there – while Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent himself are hardly small fry in term of fashion influence.
Vaccarello, who grew up between Belgium and Italy, previously had his own label and worked with Versace line Versus. His reputation was forged on a look that came with leg splits as standard on dresses and Helmut Newton on the moodboard. This confident sexuality works for Saint Laurent. The Le Smoking tuxedo, a woman’s take on a man’s suit, featured heavily in Newton’s 70s images.
Slimane’s future is unclear. He has worked on photography projects in 2017, and issued a statement last year saying will not be setting up a brand in his own name. However, according to interviews, fashion is not off the table completely so a role at another house could be a possibility.
Saint Laurent is now the second-biggest brand in the Kering conglomerate, after Gucci. This month, they announced total revenues of £1.03bn. The sales for Vaccarello’s first collection remain to be seen. But Kering’s financial wing will see this second collection as a next step to further growth as Vaccarello makes his mark on the brand.
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