#SuzyPFW: Saint Laurent’s Sexy Showmanship
On the last intensely red-and-blue flowered dress with shoulders out there, bodice down there and skirt cut off as high as was decent, the Saint Laurent show ended with flashing lights, puffs of smoke and – as a final showy gesture – the glittering Eiffel Tower seen through the entrance of the specially constructed show space.
Wow! This was a sexy show, from plunge-front tops to the boots worn with almost every outfit, except when there were stilettos dressed up with plumes like a dancer’s from the Moulin Rouge. In contrast, the men’s collection – sandwiched in the middle of the showgirls – seemed relatively sober, with a smart jacket (even if it might be gilded or lacy) above super-skinny legs in plain trousers.
Backstage, designer Anthony Vaccarello took all this wild showmanship in his stride.
“I really wanted a kind of ‘street show’ – something very sharp and inspired by the Russian collection of Monsieur Saint Laurent,” he said. “I was going for more street and more masculine. Then I wanted an explosion of flowers and happiness – and a kind of sadness, also.”
The women’s collection seemed like a re-cap of the last show in March 2016 from previous designer Hedi Slimane, who will start at Céline next season. That Hedi presentation was brutally sexy, wild and raging. The Vaccarello version seemed more controlled, even graceful, if you detached the individual pieces from the sexy spin, focusing on the rakish black hats or a smart velvet jacket.
The designer did occasionally cover all those long, bared legs with a pair of narrow trousers, but the pieces to pull out as playful – and sellable – were above the hip line: many delicate lacy tops; a fringed shawl; perfectly cut, if shrunken, velvet jackets; and, occasionally, an absolutely plain velvet dress. Let’s call it a super-compressed version of the extraordinary skills and imagination of the brand’s founder.
The concept of anger, aggression, and attitude has drowned out the Yves Saint Laurent of the later, bourgeois years. These are power women, in-your-face sexy, with V-neck bodices plunging down to the navel. Although, once gain, there were contrasting pieces like a tailored jacket and coat.
Vaccarello’s decision to show his fashion play in three acts was disconcerting, but not because the men’s clothes seemed more regular (women might buy the velvet suit, a Fair Isle sweater, or even the cat-patterned scarf and mauve nail varnish). It was the scoop-front silken dresses and the feisty floral ones that raised a new question.
Was the designer gunning for ‘unisex’ – as it was called when Yves Saint Laurent more-or-less invented the look with his tuxedos and mannish trouser suits? Or was the finale of flower-smothered dresses (and this for a winter season) designed to offer intense femininity to power women?
The present system of catching glimpses of the models racing down the runway in flare-and-fade strobe lighting, followed by a jumble of editors begging answers from the designer, is a frustrating way to see a collection. Ultimately, social media has monopolised how and what designers choose to show. And on a freezing Paris night, it might have been more comfortable to stay home and watch the show – in clear detail – on your preferred digital device.