“Dark romanticism with a hint of perversity,” Anthony Vaccarello commented at his Fall 2017 Saint Laurent show during Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday evening. The Italian-Belgian designer’s sophomore collection consisted of a joint womenswear and menswear défile. It picked up where his previous show left off—exploring the dark side of romanticism, building upon Hedi Slimane’s oeuvre while developing his own signature for the brand, and mining the archive. It was Yves Saint Laurent’s affinity for dark romanticism with a dash of perversity that attracts Vaccarello to the label. It’s not a conundrum. The same hardened version of overt female sexuality is to be found at his eponymous label which has been shuttered in the wake of Vaccarello’s appointment.
Yesterday’s post about the divine sensuality of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci juxtaposes starkly with Vaccarello’s aggressive expression of sexuality. Gucci’s sensuality is welcome as it is refreshingly different to anything else on market at the moment; this return to 80s-inspired overt sexuality seasons later is also stimulating, especially when it appears every other designer has latched onto Michele’s vision. On the one hand, there is something outdated about the aesthetic and the way it stretches the definition of modernity. However, there’s something contemporary about it.
I’ve commented in reviews before how fashion designers are preoccupied with cities like London or New York which aren’t wholly reflective of how people dress. Yes, there are niche dress codes and they are recognisable within certain designers work but when you look at something such as Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent you see something on a global scale. You have signature blue jeans with a white turtleneck and chestnut brown aviator jacket with a shearling lining and black boots—a distinctly, recognisably anonymous preset adopted by many women, and the gravitational pull of London or New York isn’t applicable. There are abbreviated party dresses and velvet skirts. There was an endless stream of those here; lithe models and their long legs were showcased in the dresses which came in black, silver, chestnut, and a sapphire (the model—a reappearing face from last season—epitomised the style of iconoclast Grace Jones). Where Vaccarello succeeds is in the way he subverts the classics with his fabrication and shaping; there’s wavy leather, fabric concertinaed and ruched. A one-shouldered black lurex mini dress, twinkling like the starry night, captured French nonchalance. He detracts from the mundanity of nightclub dressing with his bracing take on the trope.
His portrayal of women, with each set of eyes, could be interpreted differently—is it empowering? Judging by the model’s confident march, the way their hair caught in the wind, the stomp of their boots on the concrete as the rain fell from the night sky—it didn’t say empowerment: it roared it. There is a lioness within Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent.