Held in a derelict military building that was being restored as the house’s new headquarters, the show was a homecoming preview for the brand which, under its former creative head Hedi Slimane, had previously been based in Los Angeles. After the controversy that was Saint Laurent’s rebranding four years ago, the iconic “YSL” initials made their long-anticipated return in the form of a huge neon logo suspended above the Rue de Bellechasse venue by a crane. The message was loud and clear: Saint Laurent was about to be rebuilt by the brand’s new Creative Director, Anthony Vaccarello.
The industry sentiment towards one of fashion’s highly anticipated shows was whether Vaccarello would be able to replicate the commercial success of his predecessor under whom the brand experienced a whopping 27% profit growth in the second quarter of 2015. Entrusted with that gargantuan task, Vaccarello turned to Paloma Picasso (Yves Saint Laurent’s first muse) for inspiration. The youngest daughter of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot was a revolutionary dresser who created her signature aesthetic by incorporating ’40s vintage pieces into her wardrobe. Paloma was also the muse who inspired Saint Laurent’s 1971 haute couture Libération collection which shocked the audience and caused outrage because of its blatant sexuality and thematic associations with World War II.
The YSL Girl, Now
Slimane had a fondness for music icons like Joni Mitchell, Marianne Faithfull, Daft Punk and Dylan Lee. Under his creative direction, the YSL aesthetic was carefree, grungy and bohemian. Slimane’s girl perpetuated his love for nonchalance and skinny tailoring, but Vaccarello transformed her into a sexy siren and took her out for a walk on the wild side – echoes of his earlier work for Versus Versace were unmistakable.
Instead of going back to his modus operandi of sexing it up, the mandate, we think, was a more nuanced approached of “dressing with impunity”. But with the anticipation of his debut YSL collection riding high, Vaccarello eschewed the temptation to rehash the tried-and-tested. True to the roots of the house and inspired by a 1982 YSL original – with a few updates to set the record straight – Vaccarello showed the world that YSL was back, badder and more sexed up than before.
Since Vaccarello assumed the lead role in April 2016 (and subsequently wiping away all traces of the French designer’s footprint from YSL’s Instagram account), the house’s desire to start with a clean slate was apparent. The inclusion of a sole male model in the women’s show hinted at the reinvention of Saint Laurent’s brand architecture and how it would evolve henceforth.
To his credit, Vaccarello has done an admirable job of pulling off his own interpretation of the Saint Laurent girl. Injecting his own spin on key references to YSL’s rich archives, the designer chose a dress with exaggerated sleeves as his starting point, a move that culminated in a mostly wearable collection. As leather jackets, bustier dresses, fluid dresses in metallic shades, and sheer lacy tops and jumpsuits graced the runway, an oddball inclusion referenced Janet Jackson’s infamous Nipplegate saga. The intention might have been to shake things up, but despite the edginess, the visual tactic leaned towards kitsch.
The Belgian designer’s obsessive attention to detail was paramount to the house’s reinvention. From embroidered pockets on slouchy jeans, to a new tailoring direction that raised hemlines higher than they used to be, the look was lady-of-the-night – with nothing less than the intent to shock and awe.
Check out the SS'17 Dossier in the February 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (out now on newsstands and Magzter).