It’s opening night of Paris Fashion Week. Suspended from a crane above the Rue de Bellechasse hangs a larger-than-life neon YSL logo, casting a fluorescent glow over the entrance to one of the most highly-anticipated shows of the week: Anthony Vaccarello’s debut for Saint Laurent.
With the departure of Hedi Slimane from YSL in April 2016 still casting a shadow over the French fashion house, Italian-Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello (previously creative director at Versus Versace) was left with a billion-dollar business and very large shoes to fill. After all, Slimane’s work for YSL was nothing short of revolutionary. The shocking (and somewhat controversial) rebranding of all ready-to-wear lines as Saint Laurent, the partial relocation of the design studio to L.A., and even commercially outperforming other larger fashion houses, like Louis Vuitton or Gucci, are all hard acts to follow – and even harder to sustain.
For Anthony Vaccarello, “it’s not even really thinking about the future with this house: it always has to be about the now.” In an extensive interview with Vogue, released just hours before his debut, Vaccarello shared his philosophy and vision upon entering the iconic house. While focusing on honoring the history of the house and turning to the most memorable moments of the past for inspiration, Vaccarello has committed himself to creating a house that celebrates its past and looks to the future at the same time.
Now, the debut collection:
“I wanted to have a clin d’oeil—a wink—to Yves Saint Laurent,” Vaccarello told Vogue. “He did so many things, I don’t want to repeat the things he has done. It’s not about the garments, my idea of YSL lies in the attitude and how we handle things. There are fabrics like leather, vinyl, velvet, lace, but then they’re put on a girl of today.”
Known for his more sensual approach to design, Vaccarello’s 80s-inspired collection showcased low necklines, short hemlines, plenty of skin, and even included a memorable nod to Yves’ iconic Le Smoking jacket. Stepping away from Slimane’s commercial marketing approach, Vaccarello kept the runway clean, focusing on design rather than styling and casting models such as Edie Campbell, Mica Arganaraz, and his personal muse, Anja Rubik, for his inaugural show (no sign of Hadids or Jenners here).
For Vaccarello, the YSL girl is one full of confidence and self-awareness. In his own words, “it’s a girl who knows Yves Saint Laurent—maybe she had a mother who wore YSL, or she just knows what he did in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and she is taking those references, and she is mixing it with her own personality and her own wardrobe, to make it personal. She has a lot of respect for the past, but she’s not dressing like she’s stuck in the past, she’s dressed for now.”
Playing into the 80s revival happening in Paris, said to be largely motivated by Slimane’s last collection for the house, Vaccarello’s runway looks consisted of puffed sleeves, little one-shoulder numbers, boyfriend jeans (!!), draped gold lamé, sheer chiffon, and logo-play, including a pair of heels spelling “YSL” and earrings to match. We have to applaud the use of material and silhouettes created. Vaccarello showcased his natural talent with an ultra-sexy, revealing collection that still successfully touched on the classics of the house.
While not everyone was head-over-heels for the conceptual line, the most common argument being that it was simply too “safe,” many have deemed Anthony Vaccarello worthy of his title and this debut a promising start. A handful of fashion houses have seen new faces debuting this season, with the appointment of Maria Grazia Chiuri to Dior and Calvin Klein snatching up Raf Simmons, but the departure of Hedi Slimane and entrance of Anthony Vaccarello has sparked a new movement within the house of Yves Saint Laurent.
Slimane’s YSL was rock-n-roll. Vaccarello’s YSL? Conceptual. A celebration of the past. Powerful. A celebration of the modern woman (and man.) The question of whether or not Vaccarello can completely fill the shoes of Slimane, though, still remains unanswered. Although, knowing Vaccarello, his vision undoubtedly extends far beyond that.
Check out a few more photos from the runway show below.
Photos: New York Times, Vogue, Vice, WWD, Beauty and Fashion Freaks, Sarah Collette (@sarahcolette)