It was the most lingeringly memorable show of Anthony Vaccarello’s career. Sophisticated, sinuous, simple: it had almost a throwback ’90s Belgian coolness about its long, narrowly languid silhouettes, the covered arms, the subtly strict use of color.
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 ’30s/’80s 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.
There was a lot of talk about it after the show; how it turned a corner away from overt sexiness, away from flash and embellishment and micro this and that, and painfully high shoes. Sometimes there are turns in the road that leave people feeling things are really changing in fashion. This collection felt like one of those.