By: Zack Huffman Contribution Fashion Editor/Fashion Illustrator
Saint Laurent instantly conjures the idea of Parisian glamour for all who know their fashion history. The famous house and its long-time creative director, Yves Saint Laurent, played a key role in shaping the course of fashion for decades. From the 1965 Mondrian dress to the “Le Smoking” jacket the following year to the revolutionary “Operas et Ballets Russes” collection, there’s no denying that Yves was as Diana Vreeland famously said, “the master of the streets of the world.”
But the question for 2017 (soon to be 2018) is: Where is the House pushing us today? Or more frankly, is it pushing us anywhere at all?
Under Hedi Slimane's leadership (2012-2016), the House was often discussed, but not always in the best light considering his frosty relationship with the fashion press. However, that didn’t stop Hedi from ratcheting up Saint Laurent’s relevance and growing the business. Not only did he completely re-brand Saint Laurent and add millions in profits, Hedi also played a key role in pushing the current 80s revival trend. From his very first show, Hedi paired his rocker aesthetic with YSL’s DNA - eventually culminating in the full on 80s revival collection for Fall/Winter 2016. His farewell show pushed shoulder proportions to a height not seen since the illustrations of Tony Viramontes and featured models so disturbingly thin that one couldn’t help but feel an angry, 80s edge to each look that descended the Maison steps.
The first two collections under newly appointed creative director, Anthony Vaccarello largely continued Hedi’s 1980s YSL meets party-going rocker look. When done well, there’s a certain kind of glamour to the look - especially in the well tailored jackets and bedazzled accessories. But on the whole, Vaccarello’s first two collections left a lot to be desired. They simply didn’t live up to the brand’s reputation for high glamour.
As Virginia Postrel said in her insightful book, The Power of Glamour, “the nature of the concept is grounded in visual persuasion - not mere luxury or ‘chic.’”
In contrast to simple sex appeal or 80s nostalgia, glamour for the modern woman is more about being effortless, multifaceted, cosmopolitan (but not stuffy), and most importantly - liberated. She has some sprezzatura to her presence. She is “trying” without looking as though she put in too much effort. This distinction then begs the question: How will Vaccarello persuade us?
Thankfully, his latest collection which debuted under the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower this past September may provide the beginning of an answer. In contrast to the awkward mix of constraint and hit-you-over-the-head sexuality of his first two collections, the spring/summer 2018 show tilted towards the free, liberated, and glamorous feeling that made YSL famous. As Sarah Mower eloquently put it in her review for Vogue, “there were legs for miles and glamour as far as the eye could see.” Feathers, boots, satin, and glitter dresses abounded. Despite mile high hemlines, each dress in the latter half of the show moved beautifully - enveloping the models in gorgeous, voluminous shapes. There was definite sex appeal, but not without taste. Vaccarello made it clear that the Saint Laurent girl is still ready to party, but she’s also ready to escape, transform, and transfix all those in her wake.
Perhaps Saint Laurent could return us to glamour after all.