Revived Chic. Saint Laurent SS21

I loved Anthony Vaccarello‘s spring-summer 2021 collection for Saint Laurent. It was an exercise in ultimate chic, an escape from lockdown dressing as we know it. And the guest-less fashion show itself was a visual feast. The hypnotic film by longtime creative accomplice Nathalie Canguilhem of models walking in a snaking single file across striated sandbanks in… well, who knows where, exactly? On a call with Vaccarello a few days ago, he wasn’t letting on. It’s worth noting that the panoramic vista as far as the eye can see performed a similar trick here as it did in February: an uninterrupted backdrop the better to showcase his new streamlined silhouette. The line-up was surprisingly soft, hard edges rounded off, save for the punk-ish haircuts of the models. There’s a general air of relaxing, sometimes even playfulness – but nothing too loose. The months of life in and out of lockdown with the attendant desire for clothes with ease and softness didn’t leave Vaccarello untouched. “With everything that was going on in the world, I wanted something softer, warmer,” he said during that phone call from Paris. “I’ve never really done ‘comfortable’ before.” He found his answer to how to approach it by delving into the YSL archives, alighting in his usual resolutely left-field and non-historicist way on the fluid, pliable jersey dressing that Saint Laurent did in 1968. But the ultimate, refined loungewear was my my favourite here: sheer kaftan gowns and flou dresses, all of them denuded of any details, save for the accessories that accompany them: a hothouse bloom tied close to the throat via a leather thong, razor-sharp slingback heels and reissued versions of Claude Lalanne’s jewellery. Vaccarello’s success here is in answering the more intimate mood of the moment; being able to connect a house whose foundations rest on a particular brand of high-octane cool glamour – a very external expression of self – with our current deep inner need for ease and solace. Even his nods to the ’60s -they also include some very Valley of the Dolls florals and marabou negligee dressing, glorious exercises in kitsch, but just enough; and those geometric updates of the classic Vidal Sassoon five-point cut – aren’t nostalgic rehashes. Instead, it’s a wish to connect that decade’s optimism with his own sense of positivity; a sense that one can start looking again to the future. And who can blame him? By the time this collection is available to buy, Vaccarello will be celebrating the milestone of his fifth anniversary at the house. “I’m not the guy I was when I first came here,” he said. “I am more sure of myself.” So too it seems is the woman he has in his mind’s eye. “She was maybe more seductive when she started,” he said, “but now she has grown up. She has much less to prove.” It’s getting better and better!

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

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