A warm breeze drifted into the show space through a row of high stone arches. It may have felt like the end of summer here in Paris, but the new vision for Saint Laurent was about to arrive. With such a similar sensibility to Slimane, this designer’s vision was only ever going to be an evolution, at least for this season. Nevertheless, Anthony Vaccarello handled the brief well. This collection was real a step up for him.
Eighties Victoriana, Michael Jackson, Christophe Decarnin’s Balmain, this collection was full of references. It saw Vaccarello venture into the world of nostalgia, something that the house has been trading off for Hedi’s entire tenure.
This didn’t feel apathetic though. It felt genuine and, at times, sensual. There were some brown heirloom jackets that actually had a mature sensibility. They spoke quietly, but were really desirable.
This quiet moment was but a reprieve. Mostly, the collection comprised of commercially sizzling pieces that were aligned with trends, tried and tested bestsellers, and partywear. The first looks immediately struck one that this collection fell in line with the current trend for a leg o’ mutton sleeve. Theatrical, historic, black velvet tops were off the shoulder, and bustier style leather doublet tops were the most romantic, period garments we’ve ever seen Vaccarello do.
There was also an immediate Mugler feel about the show. Let’s not forget that Yves Saint Laurent has a serious stake in the voluminous sleeve and vampish silver screen dressing, way before the eighties was referencing the forties. His 1968 collection, with transparent (nipple exposing) black chiffon tulle blouses were ten years ahead of the game. Guy Bourdin pictures of Donna Jordan in 1970 also sprang to mind. However, the Mugler-specific references kept returning, via black PVC dress-up and exaggerated bustier lines, which plunged as deep as the shadows that stretched across the runway.
Gold lamé sarong-tied pieces and louche, off-the-shoulder spotty chiffon dresses were like what you would have worn if dancing with Yves in Studio 54. Iman modelled a similar silver number in 1976.
Men walked the runway too; romantic vamp types in voluminous black transparent shirting and skinny black jeans. Both men and women wore several looks that referenced the iconic Le Smoking Tuxedo. One model was particularly reminiscent of Grace Jones – her angular party wear, a reminder of Jones’ Nightclubbing album cover.
This collection felt sexier than Slimane’s depiction of Saint Laurent, less brutal and punkish. The blue denim jeans were cute; rolled up and generous, they were a highlight of the show. Black leather continues to be a strong staple for the house – as expected. Not merely a massive commercial hitter, this material is emblematic of the connection between former designer and current sitter. The Saint Laurent Instagram account may have been wiped, but Hedi’s legacy lives on. The skinny black jean, low denier stockings and stiletto heels still remained.
One-shouldered blouses tapped into a plethora of zeitgeisty fashion pieces right now, and are perhaps an indication of how much people are referencing original Saint Laurent these days - and always. With black straps at the back, harnesses held the blouses to the body, almost like a loaded weapon. Like the single glove that Michael Jackson would wear, glitter socks also added a Smooth Criminal vibe. The whole thing knocked on the door of Decarnin’s Michael Jackson references within his debut collections at Balmain.
The party dresses look super fun and super luxe. Velvet leopard print and devores shone in the light as the girls walked. They eventually walked through the arches, and were gone. As the shadows disappeared, you kind of wanted to go the party they were heading to.
Did this collection break new ground? No. But it exhibited a more joyous engagement with the archive - and life in general.