• Text Alex James Taylor
  • 26th September 2018

Walking on water

Designed by French artist Vincent Lamouroux, white faux palm trees lined Paris’ Trocadero Fountain at Anthony Vaccarello’s SS19 Saint Laurent show, importing an ephemeral tropical addition alongside the traditional Eiffel Tower backdrop. In front of the scaffolding terrace where guests sat was what appeared to be an infinity pool of glistening pitch black water, reflecting hazy twins of the palm trees above. As the first model stepped out in a black and white high-waisted tux, she splashed along the runway in a pair of snakeskin boots – cue camera phone flashes and the dropping of jaws. 

“As Paloma Picasso’s vintage re-styling inspired Yves Saint Laurent in the early ‘70s, timeless icons’ codes are blended and reborn for today,” read the accompanying show notes. So time for a quick history lesson: mesmerised by her put-together flea-market style, Picasso was – along with Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Catroux – one of  Yves’ most influential muses and a key inspiration for his seminal and scandalous 1971 spring haute couture show. Here, the designer ripped out the catwalk from under the establishment’s feet and gave it a wild shake, sending models out in sexy crepe draped dresses, power-shoulder tailoring, satin jackets, turbans and four-inch platforms, brilliantly ruffling editors’ coiffures with its no-fucks-given verve. This was youth, this was liberation, this was genius.

And back to September 2018. Riding the waves of Yves’ youthquake, Vaccarello presented his own contemporary codes of female liberation and strength via a rock ’n’ roll swagger. Tuxedo suiting was cut to skin-tight proportions, blazers were paired with ruffled white shirts (very Prince) and 60s shift dresses came embellished with diamanté detailing that shimmered in the waters beneath. There were silk blouses, velvet military jackets, sheer dresses, patent knee-high boots and kaftans, while Vaccarello’s signature short black shorts appeared throughout as models’ legs appeared infinite in the water’s reflection. Meanwhile Yves Saint Laurent’s 1972 stage outfits for the French chanteuse Sylvie Vartan inspired a range of pieces with embellished and patch-worked stars and hearts, and a series of menswear acted as the ideal louche rockstar partners to their womenswear counterparts; all crushed velvet, swarovski-fied trenches, raw hem trousers and Woodstock accessories.

Having brought the beach to Paris, Vaccarello closed the show with an accompanying wardrobe of evening-cum-swimwear where gown-like pieces were transformed into draped and cinched swimsuits as models – including Abby Lee Kershaw – walked with slick wet hair. Like a goth Ursula Andress in Dr No, only much more deadly. 

“Eclecticism is freedom to build yourself, express your own personality and respect your complexity,” said Vaccarello of his SS19 mantra. Still waters run deep, indeed.