Desert walk

Saint Laurent SS21
Fashion | 15 December 2020

Saint Laurent will forever be synonymous with Marrakech. Even that line should conjure images of Yves and his partner Pierre Bergé lounging in kaftans in the company of their fabulous friends – the likes of Betty Catroux, Andy Warhol and Talitha Getty – and their beloved bulldogs, each new one named Moujik after the original. For his SS21 womenswear show, Anthony Vaccarello tapped into Morocco’s presence at the heart of the house’s history, presenting a collection filmed against a vast desert backdrop alongside a series of Instagram teasers set within the iconic Jardin Majorelle gardens. 

Named I Wish You Were Here, with this title Vaccarello embossed what we were all thinking, viewing the show via livestream as has sadly become the norm. “An invitation for escapism”, continued the text, “A desert, it’s soft and infinite landscape. The collection is dedicated to the freedom of movement.”

Directed by longtime collaborator Nathalie Canguilhem, the film scanned the sparse landscape as models began trekking across the dunes dressed in their fineries: the sort of elegant tailoring and gravity-defying, couture shapes we’re sure Vaccarello dreams in. With stoic vision, these girls walked the desert path against an atmospheric soundtrack conjured by producer Sebastian.

“I wanted to focus on the essence of things,” said Vaccarello. “I think it’s a sign of the times. But I didn’t want anything bleak or heavy. The desert, to me, symbolizes that yearn for serenity, open space, a slower rhythm. The clothes are also softer, the spirit of the collection is more gentle, stripped back.”

Within this mindset, tailored suiting were deconstructed with casual detailing – waistcoats replacing shirts, jackets cropped to boxy proportions and trousers sliced into just below the belt shorts. Silhouettes were rounded into cuts that mirrored the soft edges of the surrounding sandbanks, as Vaccarello shifted slightly from his razor-sharp norm. (Here was his version of lockdown relaxation – and for Vaccarello, the subtle drop of an acute shoulder was as casual as things get.)

Within a palette dominated by black, minimalist jumpsuits spoke of Yves’ work with Jagger, while a vareuse detailed with spacious pockets flirted with practicality. Sheer negligee brought the house’s high-octane glam into lockdown modernity and a thick jersey fabric was plucked from the late-60s section of the YSL archives, leaning on the decade’s optimism – and the house’s revolutionary beginnings. Under the fierce Moroccan sun, chiffon flora burst into life across midi-dresses accentuated by fluffy marabout fringes as bursts of lipstick red, frills and polka-dot tights all nodded towards Yves’ eternal muses: Loulou de la Falaise, Betty Catroux and Paloma Picasso.

Cue the encore: suddenly the sky darkened to night and models were guided by a fire desert path, illuminating the landscape with the kind of ethereal drama Vaccarello often treats us to (remember models walking on water for SS19? Or that UV finale for FW19?).

Throughout, the collection was sprinkled with reissued iterations of Claude Lalanne’s exquisite jewelry: a golden bloom tied around the neck, a petal clasped to the ear and delicate trinkets that cast nature’s magic in a metallic freeze frame. A fantasist and lover of nature, Lalanne’s playful and imaginative work spoke to Yves’ own, and the pair had a deep friendship and collaborative partnership: it was Claude who crafted those legendary FW69 bronze body casts of the model Veruschka, and it was her who built the legendary bar that would first occupy Yves’ apartment on the Place Vauban, and then his library on the Rue de Babylone. 

Such are the astute details Vaccarello dedicates to the man whose name he creates under. Remember, above all else, Yves thrived on an ethos of travel, discovery and freedom – of mind and body – therefore he would’ve certainly despised being locked down in one place under current conditions. Unless of course that place was his beloved Marrakech, and who could blame him for that.

GALLERYBackstage at this show

GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show