#SuzyPFW: Saint Laurent and Maison Margiela

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello

As models in platform shoes walked through water – an extension of the Trocadéro Fountain in Paris – past ghostly, palm trees painted fluorescent white and the Eiffel Tower twinkling and changing colours, Saint Laurent proved itself a prime example of the power of big-name shows today.

In fashion presentations now, too much is never enough. Paradoxically, the Spring/Summer 2019 collection by Anthony Vaccarello was one of his most fulfilled collections yet.

Leave out the vertiginous platform shoes – a throwback to Paloma Picasso and the scandal Yves Saint Laurent himself started in the 1970s by channelling the war years – and the current designer had reached that sweet spot of past chiming with present.

The black trouser suit that opened the show was all about Yves, and by contrast the plunging V neckline and thigh-high dresses were all about the current designer. But as all of us fashion pros know, hemlines can be lengthened, shorts replaced by narrow trousers – and who now is shocked by bosoms barely contained by a lace top?

“It’s a mix of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties and also I was inspired by the way Paloma Picasso inspired YSL in the Seventies – the way she would take clothes from the 1940s and make them her own,” the designer said, after greeting the CEO of Kering, François-Henri Pinault, and his wife Salma Hayek.

“Also,” the designer continued, “I never did tailoring or the thick jersey that YSL made in the Sixties, so it’s another way to talk about all the things he did.”

The most impressive element of Vaccarello’s work is its craftsmanship, evidenced by a black velvet dress pierced with metallic buttons and more square-shouldered jackets than I’ve seen since the Eighties.

Strong women can now make choices between that “Velvet Underground”, Seventies-revival richness and black used every which way – including feathery cover-ups for nipples. The wit, skill, and energy of designs for both day and night were stellar.

But did this fine show really need all the dramatic stageing? I am asking as someone who tripped on an awkwardly-placed wooden step on the way out of the ranks of metal seating and am now hobbling along the Paris streets – definitely not in platform shoes.

The race among the giant brands to compete with ever-more elaborate sets seems out of control and often made only to be Instagrammable. Let’s hope that the installations do not take the impact away from the clothes themselves.

Maison Margiela by John Galliano

What a fireball of a collection! Strong, bold, energetic women addressed the audience with filmed comments about gender, self-awareness and women’s role in the modern world.

Until I saw the same films on a huge screen in front of the historic Grand Palais, I did not realise that they were a promotion of a Margiela fragrance called “Mutiny” – a word that lives deep in the Paris psyche since the infamous student riots of 1968.

Yet it was the clothes that rang out – well-crafted, tailored, wearable – perhaps with just a sliver of a cut-out to replace earlier collections, when violent tears seemed to attack the fabrics.

One bold step was to include some transgender models – male figures in the women’s show. But that was not presented as a drama or an issue.

Less deliberately “artsy”, this collection still showcased Galliano’s and the original founder Martin Margiela’s vision of finding beauty in the undone and in showing the stitching. But for all the strong comments emanating from the walls, the runway proved that you don’t need sharply cut and imaginative designs to be accompanied by a fantastical setting.

Of course it was Galliano who invented all that for his breakthrough collections for Dior in the late Nineties, when the maison was still about stuffy grandeur.

Margiela’s history is the other way around: a house that was rooted in raw or dishevelled clothes.

But there was no irony, just beauty, in Galliano’s sugar-pink raincoat, giant floral bows, or coats tufted with wisps of feather.

And there was no elaborate setting. Just pure, unadulterated, and powerful fashion.