To You, Paris

Saint Laurent’s love of its home city is again illustrated, as it stages the spring/summer 2022 show under the golden brilliance of the Eiffel Tower

What’s more French than the Eiffel Tower? Or the maison Yves Saint Laurent built? The evening presentation of the house’s spring/summer 2022 collection is in the presence of the 132-year-old tour Eiffel, which reopened in July after being shut for nearly nine months as France dealt with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is anything that could signal a return to some semblance of normalcy, it is perhaps the towering grandeur of the symbol of Paris. The models walked in the open space, extending Anthony Vaccarello’s connection with the outdoors of the past two seasons, only now in the heart of the city and the home of some of the most recognisable brands in the world, especially those founded here, on which the identity of the brands hinge on. None more so than Saint Laurent, whose founder loves Paris so much, he named a perfume after her. But did the house not say they were opting out of the PFW calendar some two seasons back, even ‘showing’ away from Paris? So what could this presentation, right before the most symbolic of Parisian monuments, mean? Change of mind?

The inspiration this season, however, is not the city per se. Reportedly, Mr Vaccarello was particularly impressed by Paloma Picasso, the French/Spanish daughter of the artist Pablo Picasso. In the inner circle of Yves Saint Laurent, Ms Picasso is considered an important figure although much of the accolades went to Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise (deceased). If Ms Catroux was the tomboy and Ms a la Falaise the dandy, Ms Picasso was the femme fatale, completing the trinity of women who surround the man. When he first met Ms Picasso, he was said to have called out in delight: “It’s Dora Maar!”—the photographer/artist who was the lover and muse of Pablo Picasso (it is not known how the daughter felt when compared to a woman not her mother!). Ms Picasso would take a different path from the other two women: she went on to be a jewellery designer, whose name, like another European Elsa Peretti, is very much linked to Tiffany, now owned by LVMH. And also unlike the duo, she was never thought to be quite the designer’s muse, until now when Mr Vaccarello brings up her name. Is a muse still crucial to a house? Or, is that so many decades ago? In an inclusive society that we are supposed to be in, is singling one woman, even if she’s of international repute, to represent women in general advantageous to a brand?

Whether the inspiration came from a single city or a one woman, Mr Vaccarello is in what may be considered his finest form. Doing away the tiniest of skirts or profusion of marabou, he (re)engineered the chic that is so synonymous with YSL, and gives it a keen street posturing that recalls one Left Bank of the ’70s than the equivalent of today elsewhere. The masculine tailoring, for one, stood dependably tall as the tour Eiffel. Shoulders of suit jackets are pronounced, but not overly large or dropping too much, while sleeve lengths shortened to three quarters—a sum that is consistent with today’s love of volume, but also recall the jackets of the house in the past. One particular comes quickly to our mind, the pink, boxy, one-button single-breasted that was featured in the 1985 TV commercial for the perfume Paris, in which the model and her pronounced and straight shoulder was the embodiment of unattainable French chic. Mr Vaccarello’s own take is less feminine, but they are not diminished of the sharp elegance of tailoring associated with the house, and its story of the young heart.

Another piece was striking to us too: the double bandeau-bikini, which recalls the two bows on a bustier dress from the house’s autumn/winter 1988 haute couture collection, worn by “India’s first supermodel” Kirat Young. Sure, it’s been a skin-showing season, but Mr Vaccarello is able to take what is essentially decorative element of the past and reimagine it as a garment—skimpy as it is—that is a lot less bare than those now so omnipresent and destined to be worn in large numbers soon. Sexiness is also evident in the styling (and even concurrently adopted by very young stars such as Olivia Rodigo), but somehow Mr Vaccarello is able to throw a spanner in the works, so to speak, and temper the sexual strength by doing something quite unsexy: tucking a long wallet into the front waist of pants, not quite like a person doing so with a gun because he has no holster, but like a wet-market-bound auntie, keeping her hands free so that she can bring the bags of vegetables home. Since anything can be sexy these day, perhaps that too?

Screen grab: Saint Laurent. Photos: gorunway.com

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