Radical fantasy

Saint Laurent FW17
Fashion | 1 March 2017

In Paris last night, Anthony Vaccarello presented the sophomore collection under his new vision for Saint Laurent. Held again in the courtyard of the under-construction HQ, the show nailed home Vaccarello’s intention to make his mark at the 55-year-old house.

“I love Monsieur Saint Laurent’s subversive approach to clothes, his dark romanticism with a hint of perversity,” the designer explained in the show notes. “I wanted this collection to be like a re-reading, a radical fantasy of this heritage.” And there you had it: this would be Vaccarello’s interpretation of the Saint Laurent legacy. The 100 or so looks were split into three sections: womenswear, menswear and a finale of dressier crystalline pieces. Leather dresses had oversized 80s shoulders; that height balanced with seriously short hemlines (a Vaccarello signature) and scrunched boots with cone-shaped heels. Model Mica Arganaraz sent the internet mad with her one massive shearling-lined glove, strapped up the arm to the shoulder. Think Bane if he had a bionic arm.

Fantasy aside, there’s a strategy here. Any designer tasked with the project of directing a heritage house faces the notorious challenge of balancing past with present, heritage with future. Vaccarello has stepped into the shoes previously worn by Hedi Slimane – very big shoes, considering how much of a financial hit Slimane was at the brand, tripling its size over his four years there – and before that Tom Ford, Stefano Pilati, and Yves Saint Laurent himself. How do you approach such a challenge? You start carving out your own legacy, drawing inspiration from the rich archives afforded to you and giving them your own spin. For Vaccarello, who is known for his very-sexy aesthetic honed at his own label and at Versus Versace, this meant looking to the youth and street spirit that underpinned Yves Saint Laurent’s most ingenious moments. Like the founding of his Rive Gauche line in 1967: directed at younger customers, it demonstrated a radical foresight that democratised fashion’s elitism, and pre-empted the multi-tiered market of today.

As such, it wasn’t all high-octane. After all, not everyone has an occasion to wear a thigh-scraping mini dress (though we can dream). There was classic blue denim and cashmere sweaters, barely there silk blouses (hello nipple), tiny leather skirts, khaki or suede parkas, and cropped shearling jackets. For men, Vaccarello kept it tight. Aside from that one look last season and the recent campaign, this is the first time we’ve encountered the designer’s vision for menswear on the runway. In the handful of looks, stand outs ranged from a leather safari jacket (a sexy Yves classic) to cropped flight jackets that wouldn’t look out of place on Marlon Brando. Worn with big boots and weighty trousers, all together it introduced a bulkier silhouette for the Saint Laurent man.

With the last 45 or so looks Vaccarello turned it up. For women and men, various silk and velvet incarnations of the silhouettes introduced so far: dresses, blazers, skirts, tops, boots, sweaters – all encrusted with glimmering crystal. Va-va-voom, yes. This was Vaccarello making a statement about the kind of glamour we can expect from this new phase at Saint Laurent. But that bejewelled onslaught came down so quickly you almost missed the fleeting importance of looks 58 through 61. One velvet dress with an embroidered orchid to the neckline, and the three others a sharp jolt of metallic blue – that same cobalt that covers the tiled walls at Marjorelle Garden in Marrakech, where Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes were laid to rest in 2008. An electrified tribute, summing up this chapter of Vaccarello’s fantasy.

GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show