Ever since Anthony Vaccarello landed at Saint Laurent in 2016—in fact, even before, with his own label—he has always had a preference for staging his shows so that the audience sits on only one side of the runway, giving an uninterrupted view of the unfolding spectacle.
For his Summer 2020 men’s show, his second for the house after last June’s ’70s opium-fest in NYC, it was business as usual, if it’s possible to call staging a show on an ebonized boardwalk runway atop a Malibu beach usual.
Nope, obviously not, not even for the likes of Keanu Reeves, LaKeith Stanfield, and Miley Cyrus, who sat front row.
More on why California in a minute, but what did that uninterrupted view of the clothes tell us? That Vaccarello, who barely tackled menswear prior to arriving at Saint Laurent, save for his brief stint at Versus, is a quick study.
This was a strong and assured outing from him, connecting to some of that YSL legend of old, but also with his own unerring sense of what a young guy might actually want to wear today.
The major starting point for the collection, Vaccarello said at a preview, was Marrakech in the ’70s (YSL was a habituée) reimagined as 21st-century Los Angeles, a city that resides on Vaccarello’s own emotional landscape.
(He first visited when he was 14, and there have been many return visits.) While that’s some geographical leap, it’s not an unimaginable one; both locations speak to a yearning for a certain bohemian, free-spirited, almost mystical escape.
“You come to L.A. for vacation,” Vaccarello said. “You can disconnect from the rest of the world.”
The Morocco-by-way-of-LA-isms were smartly and sparingly deployed throughout the collection and considered flourishes, not theme-gone-wild.
The tasseled hoods, djellaba shirting, and embroideries of tiny silver discs suspended from chains amplified the rigor of the classic YSL vestiaire that Vaccarello has been busy exploring (the saharienne, the sharp-as-a-tack tux) as well as the kind of pieces (the bomber, the spencer) that he has introduced into the house’s lexicon.
At a time when men’s tailoring is coming back with a vengeance, there was plenty of it here that intrigued, including jackets whose shoulder seams ran on the bias, keeping the line defined, but, apparently, allowing for more comfort and mobility.
After all, how else might you convince a generation accustomed to the freedom of streetwear to try tailoring on for the first time—and keep it on?
The other major reference for the collection was Mick Jagger, circa the Rolling Stones tour of 1975, where the lead singer got to shake a tail feather onstage (and off) in all sorts of glossy and glittery finery.
Vaccarello understands, as Jagger did, that a man never looks more masculine than when he’s in satin and sparkle.
So he took the opportunity to reference the androgyny of the glam-slam ’70s with one that reflects today: the gleaming black teddy jacket whose sleeves were cut with kimono-like proportions, for instance, or an ivory satin suit, which came with a matching silk shirt left undone save for the knot at the waist.
(Jagger, incidentally, who gave Vaccarello access to his vintage YSL, is returning the compliment by wearing some pieces from this collection when the Stones start their U.S. tour later this month, including the cobalt blue-to-black dégradé beaded blouson.)
Some of the gender fluidity came in less-expected forms.
The shorts, which have been a mainstay of his women’s collections from the very beginning, made their men’s debut, as ragged denim cut-offs paired with a lean pinstriped jacket or an oversize trench.
The blown-up proportions of the latter underscored the softer, looser—sensual, even—approach Vaccarello took here. It was a first for him, an indication he’s finding his comfort level with his men’s while also being able to dig in and challenge himself.
“I love it now,” he said. “It might sound selfish to say this, but I really project myself into the pieces. I’m trying everything on.”
Even, he said, the finale looks, a terrific line-up of super-wide, super-fluid black pants, in gauzy knit or a crushed pleated silk, billowing and flowing from a high and often belted waist.
Vaccarello showed them as the gray-skied swelling Pacific Ocean finally slid into darkness, but it looked a whole lot more like him seeing things in a new light.