Ever since Anthony Vaccarello took over the creative helm from Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent in April 2016, the aesthetic template at the storied French fashion house has pretty much remained the same.
Yes, Vaccarello has streamlined the silhouettes a bit more and has added (even) more sex appeal to the garments, but the vision with which Slimane reinvented the house in the early 2010s has endured. After all, evolution not revolution has always been part of the succession plan that Saint Laurent’s parent company Kering put in place during the changing of the guards.
However, Slimane is now creative director at Celine, which not only sparked outrage among Philophiles around the world who resent the designer for emotionlessly disposing the way of dressing established by its former creative director Phoebe Philo, but also created friction with his old employer, as Slimane has essentially duplicated the exact vision he had at Saint Laurent and Dior Homme before that.
So, naturally, Vacarello’s FW19 collection, in which he presented 103 looks for men’s and women’s, had many similarities to Slimane’s men’s collection shown just a month earlier. From the casting of ultra skinny models to the show’s long mirrored runway with spectators viewing the collection from just one side to the slim tailored suiting and 1980s-inspired party dresses themselves, the parallels were there.
But Vaccarello is aware of the comparisons, so this season, more than ever before, he planned on making Saint Laurent his own. He succeeded.
Where Slimane designed for the je ne c’est quoi rockstar party girl, Vaccarello creates clothes for her chicer, older sister. She’s still wild at heart but carries herself in a more mature manner and oozes confidence. It’s the women that instantly draws your gaze when she walks into the room with her ankle-length overcoat, sheer top and feather scrunched high-top boots.
A lot of that came back to this season’s silhouettes explains Vaccarello. “Everything starts from the shoulder construction,” he explains in a statement saying the couture-refined tailoring and sculptural lines were inspired by the sophisticated and liberated spirits of iconic muses Betty Catroux, Bianca Jagger and Catherine Deneuve. “The graphic sculptural tailoring gives a sharp sophistication to the liberated impulse of desire.” More Parisian chic, less heroin chic like the work of his predecessor.
For his menswear, too, Vacarello diversified. Pinstriped suiting with wide trousers paired with faux fur stoles, metallic shirting and military boots gave the menswear a much needed gender-bending feel, while cropped leather jackets, mohair leopard-printed sweaters and extravagant footwear gave the collection the youthful aesthetic Saint Laurent’s men’s clientele can’t yet let go of.
For the show’s finale, the mirrored kaleidoscopic show set was turned dark with a black light unveiling over 30 neon looks. It was a literal, and final, testament of Vaccarello finally stepping out of Slimane’s shadow.