twice as nice: saint laurent and olivier theyskens kick off paris fashion week
Saint Laurent fall/winter 17
You have to give it up to Anthony Vaccarello. It was no small challenge taking over the house of Saint Laurent, but instead of rising to it with caution he's gone all out, courageously fashioning his own language there from day one — and it's anything but shy. For his sophomore show last night in Paris, the 36-year-old designer — half Italian, half Belgian — cemented the fact that he has no intention of riding Hedi Slimane's wave or simply generating jeans sales off his predecessor's back. Vacarello's Saint Laurent is loud and proud, and that wasn't necessarily the expectation from the soft-spoken designer famous for his skimpy dresses. As it turns out, the amalgamation of Vaccarello and Saint Laurent — and Yves Saint Laurent — comes rather natural, even if this designer is coming at the archive from a childlike point of view. He is a product of late 80s and early 90s pop culture, and it shows across the platform he's creating for Saint Laurent. Set in the courtyard of the future YSL headquarters still being done up, Vacarello's second show had all the trimmings of a 90s stadium concert: thunderous beats (the soundtrack was amazing), strident choreography (well, they walked fast), and the rain that would always set in minutes before a megastar went on stage.
Read: Anthony Vaccarello had plenty of shoes to fill when he took the top job at Saint Laurent last year. Instead, he chose to walk his very own path. "Hate it or like it," as he puts it, "I'm doing this."
The collection drew on the form language Vaccarello has chosen as his first study from the Yves Saint Laurent archives. They were the minimized dresses and maximized sleeves of the early 80s he explored in his first collection, this time exaggerated to new proportions through Vaccarello's dress fetish, and joined by super 80s ruched boots that in many ways characterized the show. Rather than plucking a bunch of pieces out of the archive to work on, this designer focuses obsessively on one dress — therein lies the fetish — perfecting it and developing it into an entire collection. But one collection wasn't enough. After the show, the music stopped and a new techno soundtrack started pumping. This was the eveningwear show — almost what an Yves Saint Laurent haute couture presentation would feel like for a new generation, even if it was still ready-to-wear. Here, dense, black velvets carried the trademark silhouette into night, backed up by all that glittered. If this was Vaccarello's take on eveningwear, was the first part of the show daywear, then? Certainly, you'd have to feel pretty fabulous on a Tuesday morning to go to work in some of the numbers proposed in that part of the show, but Vaccarello also went virtually normcore in places such as a blue denim trouser styled with a knee-high boot. That felt very European, very Paris in that polished daywear sense this fashion capital excels in.
It was a mood evident in Vaccarello's menswear looks for Saint Laurent, which got their debut this season (bar a boy in a bishop-sleeved blouse last September). He wanted his menswear to have the sophisticated, slightly nerdy femininity of Yves Saint Laurent himself. Vaccarello fetishized that neatness in lacquered surfaces and austere disco shirts, tapping into the menswear territory the established skinny-boy Saint Laurent fan base can't get enough of, fusing that aesthetic with the trash-glam sexiness of his womenswear. Sophomore collections are generally considered the toughest and most unforgiving. If a debut collection comes with a certain lenience from critics, the second effort is when a designer really has to prove his worth. Judging from the mood in that courtyard, Vaccarello's courage paid off — even the rain falling on the congregated fashion masses didn't kill his vibe. Olivier Theyskens, who transported the flock to the legendary Le Train Bleu restaurant at Gare de Lyon earlier in the day, is faced with a much different but oddly similar challenge to Vaccarello.
The Belgian designer showed the sophomore collection for his eponymous brand, Olivier Theyskens, on Tuesday afternoon. Well, it wasn't quite a sophomore show — Theyskens closed his brand in 2002 when he was appointed creative director at Rochas and relaunched it last season after a long career working for brands, which also included Nina Ricci and Theory. It didn't make expectations for the second show of his new eponymous era any lower. Quite the contrary, this season was Theyskens' chance to show he's back with a vengeance. He did that by tapping into his own, much beloved archive, revisiting the golden daffodil of his famous Madonna gown from 1998 in a gorgeous Victorian coat. Then, he revisited the sci-fi side to his own aesthetic in a super structured little black leather dress, and merged those two trademarks in a minimal and kind of futuristic 1940s men's coat. If Vaccarello was updating someone else's history for a new age, Theyskens was tackling his own. And for this designer, who has one of the most distinct form languages in the world — which is entirely his own — fashion always has time for more.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams