Anthony Vaccarello makes a brazenly sexy debut at Saint Laurent

The Belgian-Italian designer’s first show for the Parisian house was full of clothes almost exclusively not suitable for work

For Anthony Vaccarello, the solution to the problem of going forward at Saint Laurent came from going back. Tuesday evening in Paris marked the Belgian-Italian designer’s first show for the Parisian house, following its previous, incredibly successful, four-year reboot by Hedi Slimane.

Arriving at the venue – the half-finished HQ of the brand – invitees were greeted by a giant neon Yves Saint Laurent logo, originally designed in the early 1960s and conspicuously absent in the Slimane era. Against a couldn’t-have-asked-for-better sunset, it was a moment curated for Instagram. A cluster of editors were happily obliging – and suddenly an iconic idea of Saint Laurent was resurrected in the most modern of contexts.

The same principle went through the collection that followed this stunt. The logo was the heel of stiletto shoes, earrings, and on the ankle of 10 denier tights. The designs also played on Saint Laurent’s original work, mostly from the 1980s. Black dominated, often in leather. There were nods to Le Smoking jackets, transparent chiffon blouses and party dresses worthy of Loulou de la Falaise at Le Sept, but nothing was explicit. Instead, after the show, Vacharello, after greeting guests including Amber Valetta and Jane Birkin, said he was inspired by “the idea of Saint Laurent”.

A press release sent out afterwards provided a little more detail. It referenced Saint Laurent muse, Paloma Picasso, who inspired the 1972 ‘Scandal’ collection, as well as the tuxedo, a sailor coat and a specific dress with exaggerated sleeves that Vacharello discovered in the archives. “Anthony Vaccarello has let himself get carried away by the images of the designer,” it read.

Vaccarello’s aesthetic shares a certain rock’n’roll sensibility with Slimane’s indie-influenced work. But at both his own brand and work with Versus, his designs are more brazenly sexy. The clothes in this show were almost exclusively not suitable for work, with short hemlines, bare breasts and asymmetrical necklines. It was an after-dark-only collection, but styling tricks stopped it from being a period piece.

Models wore little makeup, their hair loose, with slouchy jeans. Some had either biker boots or brogues with socks, a sweetness that contrasted with leather basques and PVC macs. This collection could be seen as a logical next step to Slimane’s outgoing one. Shown in March, it was an ode to 1980s nightclubbing.

The new creative director would be foolish not to take heed of his predecessor. Slimane, in his four years in charge, was commercial dynamite for the brand. Revenues were £839m in 2015, up from £609m in 2014. Vaccarello was announced as Slimane’s replacement in April. In a statement announcing his appointment, Francesca Bellettini, president and CEO of Saint Laurent, commented that Vaccarello “impeccably balances elements of provocative femininity and sharp masculinity in his silhouettes”.

Slimane’s next move is unclear. He will be awarded around £10m by Saint Laurent’s parent company, Kering, following a dispute regarding his exit package from the brand. Rumours persist that the designer may be in line to replace Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel when the octogenarian designer decides to retire, or he may launch his own label.

Other debuts this fashion week see women designers moving into positions more recently held by men. The relative unknown Bouchra Jarrar will show her first collection for Lanvin on Wednesday and Maria Grazia Chiuri – ex of Valentino – does the same at Christian Dior on Friday.

Chiuri is the first female designer to take up the Dior helm in the house’s nearly 60-year history. Her work at Valentino with creative partner Pierpaolo Piccioli since 2008 has gained fans for its modern, younger take on femininity. Chiuri’s Dior is set to be one of the most anticipated shows of the week.

Newer labels are gaining hype with an aesthetic that has more of a street edge to it. Tuesday had shows from Koché and Jacquemus – both brands led by a new generation of Paris designers, playing with sportswear and staples such as trenches in new ways.

This new mood for Paris is further emphasised with street labels from America – Rihanna’s Fenty Puma line and Virgil Abloh’s Off White – also on the Paris schedule, both with shows on Wednesday.

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