If you try hard enough to argue that Saint Laurent has not changed through the course of the brand’s history, you can do it. You’ll be speaking very conceptually, but it’s possible. Maybe the house’s role has always been to ruffle feathers; to produce the unexpected enough times that it becomes expected and then to institutionalize these new, but familiar, virtues that it espouses. But when you look at the actual clothes, which are now designed by Hedi Slimane’s successor in every sense of the word, it is consistently remarkable to note how spectacularly he has abandoned the style cues of the late Yves.
In September, Anthony Vaccarello showed his first collection for Saint Laurent. It looked a lot like Hedi Slimane’s last collection for Saint Laurent but featured more leather. The dresses were practically underwear and the tops were actually bras. For fall, the dresses were still short and many shirting options included only one covered arm, but there were also sweaters and jeans and aviator jackets and one brown, entirely leather gown that was strangely reminiscent of Saint Laurent’s old work thanks to the oversize floral rosette at the shoulder. All the boots were slouchy (this is a recycled trend descending upon us rapidly) and so much of it was shiny. Rhinestones! Sequins! Lamé!
The captions on Instagram all point towards worship, and I don’t blame them. For whatever reason, the collection is mesmerizing. And see, this is interesting because it’s also not new. It’s familiar and questionably achievable in that it makes you feel like you can do it at home. Maybe that’s the thing about fashion. It doesn’t have to be new for it to trap you with its tendrils and provoke the feeling that you need it, even when you know the style presented isn’t yours. It is very honest, and that is awesome.
But it really makes me wonder about old house tradition and how important that is to maintain.
When Slimane was still designing at Saint Laurent, he acted upon a seeming premonition that said, in order to resurrect this house, there shall be no more Yves. In a way, he ignited the trend of controversy on a runway because he gave us exactly what he is, but not at all what Saint Laurent used to be. Do you remember those first few seasons and the fiery comments that followed? People were pissed. “Disrespect!” they shouted. And maybe that is what it seemed like, but there’s a difference between disrespect and flatly submitting yourself to the shadow of whatever came before you, right? Vaccarello’s placement at Saint Laurent could have set him up to drown in that shadow, to lose his identity in the overwhelmingness of what came before him, but etched into the design DNA of Anthony Vaccarello is so obviously everything Slimane set up before his departure. That’s why in its blunt candor, this collection almost feels like a coming-out party. The hottest ticket in town.
Feature photo by Pascal Le Segretain via Getty Images; runway photos via Getty Images.