a new saint laurent
Anthony Vaccarello made his debut at Saint Laurent on the first day of Paris Fashion Week, Koché took over Les Halles, and Olivier Theyskens re-launched his label.
Saint Laurent spring/summer 17
If the neon-lit YSL logo dangling from a crane in the courtyard of the future Saint Laurent headquarters in the posh rue de Bellechasse represented a subliminal message on Anthony Vaccarello's part, it was a pretty epic way to say "under construction." It's been five months since the Italian-Belgian designer was announced as the successor of Hedi Slimane at the house, and the daunting undertaking of following in the footsteps of a pop idol designer like Slimane had to be approached with some humility. The soft-spoken and reserved Vaccarello handled that task with care, avoiding — as some had guessed — a continuation of Slimane's rebellious rock 'n' roll youth spirit. Rather, his debut collection for the house, rooted in the 80s glam of Yves Saint Laurent's own work of that era, seemed to bridge Slimane's couture-like farewell collection last season with this new unchartered epoch of the house. "I just wanted to have fun and play with the idea of Saint Laurent," Vaccarello briefly told journalists after the show. Perhaps because of the expectations or preconceptions surrounding his takeover, he had asked not to take questions from the vultures, choosing instead to do select previews with critics.
In his show notes, he listed Paloma Picasso's influence on Saint Laurent's "Scandal" collection from 1972 as an inspiration: "irreverent and disturbing to the eyes of society." You couldn't help but wonder if Vaccarello was referring to his own position — said daunting task of re-launching a brand like Saint Laurent. In all the collection's veneration for old Yves, it was still as raunchy and in-your-face as Vaccarello's eponymous collections, with all the dangerously high hemlines, cold shoulders, heart-shaped décolletages, and little leatherette dresses that come with the territory. Sexy would be the word, the 80s way that Vaccarello first got to know the meaning of it growing up, watching MTV and looking at supermodels in glossy magazines. He got all the contemporaries in there, including i-D cover stars Freja Beha Erichsen, Anja Rubik, Selena Forest, and Yasmin Wijnaldum. But Vaccarello also tapped into the elements that defined the brand under Slimane and took sales to new highs: denim — lots of it — in black skinny jeans, pale blue boyfriend jeans, and jackets. He brought his own flair for asymmetry with him in deconstructed miniskirts and his love for a roomy utilitarian jacket, something that could easily gain momentum in the Vaccarello age of Saint Laurent.
The most surprising part of the collection wasn't the animated gigot sleeves and couture-y prom shapes, which defined most of the skimpy cocktail dresses, but a short but sweet segment of three kilim-esque desert jackets, one with hussar detailing worn by Edie Campbell, which warmed up the collection mid-show and embraced the Marrakesh-centric corners of the Yves Saint Laurent archive. Vaccarello's biggest bow to the legacy, of course, was to be found in the continual references to Le Smoking, which stated their presence in elegant black tailoring and various takes on tuxedo dressing. A single men's look found its way into the show: a tough guy in a courtly black, see-through shirt and a drop-crotch tailored trouser, an inkling of what's to come when Vaccarello debuts his Saint Laurent menswear in January. As far as being "under construction," that's the nature of any new era for an old house. But for Vaccarello, who's joining an institution so rebranded by his short-lived predecessor (Slimane was there for just seven seasons), taking over Saint Laurent is perhaps a case of re-construction — or even deconstruction — rather than anything else. In the next few seasons, he'll continue to fuse the legacy of Yves Saint Laurent with the contemporary idea of Saint Laurent, and find his own voice in it.
Vaccarello reportedly decided to do the show on the first night of Paris Fashion Week to get the press into town for his young Parisian peers, who all show on the first day. One is Christelle Kocher, who — as a result — had nearly all of American Vogue at her public Koché show under the canopy of Les Halles. She continued her portrayal of la vie Parisienne as she sees it today, merging her knack for intricately made streetwear embellished beautifully by the ateliers of Chanel's Maison Lemarié, which she heads up on the side, as a sort of statement on the cultural interweaving that's been happening in the French capital in recent seasons. Bourgeois areas are mingling with multi-cultural ones and horizons are being broadened amidst the high alert that continues to be a reality in Paris following recent terror attacks. In that sense it was a pretty brave move to do a show in Les Halles, one of Paris' busiest places, but such is the irreverent spirit of French youth right now. They're not about to be ruled by fear.
Neither was Olivier Theyskens, who re-launched his own brand on Tuesday afternoon, doing what he does best: Theyskens, the gothic, structured way we all remember most obsessively from Madonna's red carpet dresses during her "Frozen" era. Stepping back into your own brand may not be as daunting a task as stepping into some else's the way Vaccarello did it that evening, but Theyskens still looked apprehensive taking his bow. He didn't need to be — when it comes to a defined aesthetic such as his, there's always room for it in fashion.
Text Anders Christian Madsen