unsettling ambivalence

Anthony Vaccarello’s transparent garments barely survived the runway
By Alex James Taylor | Fashion | 28 February 2024

A symphony of violins filled the Saint Laurent space, an epic venue split into circular rooms by green damask curtains with dimmed UFO lighting overhead. The house’s iconic Opium fragrance filled the air and violins screeched and soared as an electronic soundtrack mirrored a racing heartbeat – syncing with our own.

It was dramatic, dark, cinematic. And then the first look appeared: a sheer hosiery-esque top that wrapped the torso and continued into a matching skirt and head-wrap, with a marabou feather jacket draped over the model’s arm. “For the Saint Laurent Winter 2024 womenswear collection,” the show notes read, “Anthony Vaccarello reminds us of what once was at the centre of fashion by rendering it invisible: clothes.”

And so we reflect back to Yves himself, who in the late sixties created nus-habillés (nude-dressed) garments crafted in cigaline, chiffon, lace and tulle – creations that celebrated the female body through transparent transgression and became a symbol of liberation and revolution for the house. The couturier showed a trailblazing sheer organza blouse for his spring-summer 1968 collection, and a nude black chiffon dress with a belt crafted from ostrich feathers the following season. His models would always go braless on the runway – an aspect that saw pearls clutched in the salon and bras binned on the streets.

In dialogue with Yves’ work, Vaccarello offered his own ethereal creations: beautifully controlled and elevated silhouettes crafted from delicate materials that danced around the body into bows, wraps and soft draping – all cast in muted, make-up tones. Sculptural black leather coats offered a counter to the transparent looks, while cocooning marabou coats softened the offering alongside fluid tailoring and brazen glass jewellery that appeared more like moulds than final shapes. Guests on the front row – Olivia Wilde, Elsa Hosk and Georgia May Jagger – echoed the collection by wearing sheer tops.

It was beautiful in its ephemerality, these ghostly silhouettes crafted from materials that may not even survive this single outing – the material’s propensity to snag and ladder tested the Maison’s atelier to its limits. This brought with it a fragility, or an “unsettling ambivalence” as the show notes read, citing a key reference: Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Jean Louis-designed nude soufflé chiffon gown, which she wore for her last public appearance at JFK’s birthday. Vaccarello also spoke of the notion that clothes themselves are disappearing from today’s fashion – making these pieces even more poignant, like fading memories. This was Vaccarello embracing fantasy and art: narrative eclipses practicality. “My job isn’t always to do something that’s real or realistic,” the designer declared post-show.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Saint Laurent WOMENS-FALL-WINTER-24