Being Dressed. Saint Laurent Pre-Fall 2022

I never gave up on being dressed, even when the trend was about sportswear,” says Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello of his pre-fall women’s collection, the until-now-unseen curtain raiser to his sublime and epic winter show, presented earlier this year. “I am glad that people want to dress up again, because for me nothing has changed.” Never let it be said that Vaccarello doesn’t have unerring instincts. When the rest of the world was letting it all hang out while being holed up at home, he was showing hyper-colored tweedy suits dripping with jewels on an icy tundra, or had marabou and pop-floral chiffon marching across a vast Sahara-like vista; big themes, big landscapes, big drama. In their way they were as much paeans to hope for the future as statements of intent about how you might want to dress in the present. Except change was to a degree part of the narrative: Vaccarello also took on board the prevailing desire for comfort and ease, he just didn’t do it in the obvious, cliched or un-YSL of ways; there were modern compact jerseys and fluid silks to move in and to feel free in. This pre-fall collection builds on that as much as planting the seeds for the aforementioned winter, which he describes as “lots of volumes, more rounded shapes, a bit of Art Deco, a bit ’90s and a bit of Poiret.” His trick is to take all of that and work it through some of the classic Saint Laurent-isms. The columnar line for evening that Yves loved so much now looks perfect for daytime, partnered with a tough belted leather jacket and an armful of bangles. The iconic le smoking also makes it to the other side of the dawn, as an eased up suit, a cape, or a sharp-shouldered coat. Those are just some of the strong outerwear statements on show here: oversized faux furs, cozily chic but with a casual flick-the-collar-up attitude; voluminous-shouldered cocoon coats and nifty leather trenches thrown over some particularly ravishing slithery lingerie slip dresses, a hint of romanticism given by their guipure or frothy lace edges. Finishing all this off: stretch velvet high-heeled boots; gilt-trimmed square-toed pumps; and frame topped handbags. Magnifique.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Sublime Symphony. Saint Laurent AW22

Anthony Vaccarello delivered one of the most beautiful, sensational and elegant moments of the entire fashion month. His autumn-winter 2022 collection for Saint Laurent was sublime, a true symphony of chic, refinement and grace that even Yves himself would applaud. What will be remembered most? Purely the sight of a woman in a long, silvery bias-cut dress, with a perfect black low-buttoned double-breasted black peacoat over it, her hands thrust into the pockets. She opened the show. And then the line-up of flawless black tuxedos and a single, narrow black tux coat which came at the end. Of course, there was a lot more in between: fake fur coats and bombers; amazing overcoats with big (not too big) shoulders; narrow leather coats; elegantly nonchalant cocoon-back profiles. Then the punctuation of something as simple as an ecru floor-length turtle neck T-shirt dress, worn with deep stacks of dark wood and silver bangles on each arm. And the high glamour of 1930s and 1980s evening jackets with big bands of faux fur running around them.

More than anything, all of this went to show how Vaccarello has got himself in charge of the Yves Saint Laurent aesthetic, relaxed into it. That’s no mean feat – the sheer magnitude and magnificence of Saint Laurent’s oeuvre is mightily intimidating. In the face of it, the temptation as a designer is either to rebel against it with super-short shorts, slit skirts, breast-exposure and everything Saint Laurent didn’t do (which Vaccarello did at one time) or to just be too reverential. What the job really calls for is someone who knows enough about the playbook of Saint Laurent to be able to honor its quality, but also has enough confidence to be nonchalant about using it. Vaccarello hit that point of maturity with this show. In his own accent, with his own taste. With, yes, maybe something of his Belgian-born sensibility coming through: vague echoes of that period of deconstructed minimalism, the monochrome colors, saving the air of being easy to wear, but then again, bringing it up to the level of the modern Parisian elegance that we all dream about. The collection was emotionally-charged, as it was a powerful tribute to Vaccarello’s father, who has passed away recently.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Euphoric Erotic. Saint Laurent Resort 2022

Euphoric” and “erotic” – this is how one might describe Anthony Vaccarello‘s resort 2022 collection for Saint Laurent. It’s not only because you can imagine nearly every “Euphoria” character (have you seen the first episode of season 2? Mind-blowing!) wearing all the YSL feathers and sexy, body-conscious silhouettes to their quite dramatic parties (actually, Maddy would perfectly pull it off to school). The collection is totally hedonist and free-spirited, both wearable and spotlight-stealing. There’s a terrific, go-with-the-flow vibe going on here, all high-waisted, floor-sweeping flares, flower power sequins, and hippie headbands. There’s also a confident, palpable sense of sexual empowerment, with LBDs and not so little LBDs bearing all manner of cut-outs and cut-aways, breast-veiling, and other forms of transparency. The model casting also has a message – how smart of Vaccarello to showcase much of this on his long-time friend and house icon Anja Rubik, who has become a fearless advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights back home in her native Poland. The collection also mirrors how much the identity of the YSL women was forged through menswear. There’s definitely a heady whiff of those androgynous days when Yves Saint Laurent and muse Betty Catroux shared the same plunge-front shirted, narrow-hipped tailored approach to getting dressed. That was back in the late ’60s/early ’70s, an era iconic to YSL, in which gender fluidity was just one way the old order was rightly collapsing from the challenges thrown down by emancipation, counter-culture, and more bohemian ways of living. Vaccarello isn’t the type to talk endlessly about politics in his work, if ever, but politics are there, without a doubt. What he’s offering here is a clear and confident vision of dressing for a world today that’s equally in flux.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.