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Saint Laurent SS17: The good, the bad and the ugly

Sandra Halliday
28 September 2016

It’s a funny thing about Yves Saint Laurent. Whenever a new designer takes over at the label, he (and it’s always ‘he’) has an ‘Yves moment’ and sends out a collection that tries very hard to reinterpret the house’s signature looks.

Even if they veered off later, Alber Elbaz, Stefano Pilato, Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane all did it. And now Anthony Vaccarello has done too. Maybe that’s understandable because the pressure on any designer for his first collection (especially when he’s closed his own business to focus on a label exclusively) is huge.

His debut show yesterday was a sort of 1980s YSL homage. We got lots of black, some Le Smoking jackets, deep V necklines, some reinterpretations of signature eveningwear, 80-style shoulder pads, gold lamé, theatrical matador jackets, and even 1960s-style see-through blouses.

Was it any good? Hmmm. I think the jury’s still out on that one. The critics hedged their bets for sure. But then fashion many critics don’t like to criticise for fear of being banned or having advertising pulled, as well as for fear of changing their mind a few months later and being seen as out of the loop.

Myself? Well, some of it looked great and some of it looked pretty atrocious. Not that any of it was exactly surprising. Vaccarello is known for his love of super-sexy mini style and there was plenty of that.

It was clearly a collection designed by a man (female designers just don’t go in for that level of gratuitous nipple display) and one that’s aimed at the younger, less conservative customer the label now targets. But it did make me wonder why, in late 2016, male designers still think that full-bared breasts are the future of fashion.

And if you use the excuse that Vaccarello was, after all, simply designing for the label’s own high profile customers, I suppose you could argue that some of those might go for a sequinned nipple cover instead of actual material. I don’t think we’ll see that dress on any red carpets soon. But who knows?

So what did work? Some of the leather pieces, the lamé, the interesting cuts (proving that as a designer, technically, Vaccarello is actually better than Slimane) and the overall theme as the clothes tapped into that 80s trend and a number of looks we’ve seen over the past three weeks.

The fitted top and baggy jeans combo was here, as was the contrast leg of mutton sleeve in leopard print (also seen at Burberry and DSquared2). Although here it was just a single sleeve and looked a bit, well, odd.

In fact, the whole series of leg of mutton sleeves wasn’t exactly easy on the eye with the dropped shoulder line combined with that exaggerated puff being a tough call for anyone looking for relaxed after dark dressing. Again, like the whole collection, some of them worked and some of them not so much.

We got long tasselled earrings, frilled stilettos, heels spelling out the YSL logo and hosiery with that logo picked out in diamanté at the ankle (a throwback to the sightly tacky 80s, if ever there was one).

Missing was a heavy focus on the bags and the other accessories that are so important to luxury lines. But this was a debut, a stake in the ground, a “work in progress” (as Vaccarello admitted) and so the rules tend to change for that type of collection.

Perhaps what will be more interesting is what product actually packs out the stores. What we get as a pre-collection in a few months and what he turns out for AW17 next Fashion Month. That will tell us what Vaccarello really plans to do with YSL. And of course, when Kering releases its financial results next year we’ll really know whether Vaccarello’s vision is as much of a winner as Slimane’s turned out to be.

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