For some editors, traveling to an island for fashion show might revive unpleasant memories: Roosevelt Island developed a new meaning for fashion folk after Kanye West’s woefully unorganized Yeezy Season 4 outing. By contrast, the Saint Laurent spring men’s show that took place at Liberty State Park was a slick, orderly and timely affair. Attendees were shuttled to the venue via a 12-minute ferry ride, fed Champagne and ushered to a silver, stadiumlike structure with a vast marble runway positioned beautifully against a glimmering Manhattan skyline.

Anthony Vaccarello, now two years in as creative director of Saint Laurent, loves a dramatic backdrop. He utilized the Eiffel Tower for his fall 2018 women’s show, but opted for New York this season because, simply put, most of the bigger brands have decamped for Paris. Vaccarello has dabbled in men’s while at Saint Laurent, but this was his first big runway statement, complete with a front row stacked with VIPs including Kate Moss, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Travis Scott, 21 Savage, Casey Affleck, Lakeith Stanfield and Jerrod Carmichael. It’s clear that Saint Laurent is serious about the men’s category that Hedi Slimane bolstered during his four-year tenure.

Backstage, Vaccarello was matter-of-fact about his inspiration, or lack thereof. “I didn’t think about it,” he said when asked about the collection. The designer, who said he is feeling more confident about creating men’s wear now, just surrounded himself with pictures of Yves Saint Laurent during the Seventies — with his long hair, high-waisted pants and pointy-toed footwear — and projected that into modern times.

Yet Vaccarello didn’t stray far off from the men’s template set by Slimane, who never met a pair of skinny jeans he didn’t like. Ditto for lean leather jackets, shirts with a Western twang, and boots with Cuban heels. Vaccarello also sent out heavily embellished bombers, leather versions of the famous lace-up safari jacket (Saharienne, in French), sheer shirts in paisley and leopard prints, and flared trousers decorated with a sparkly tuxedo stripe. Vaccarello made no mention of American pop stars as reference points, but both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson were felt in a few of the looks — particularly the silver, sparkly knit top paired with high-waisted pants.

The clothes were accented with skinny scarves, flat brim straw hats, conch belts and snakeskin boots or beat-up white sneakers. To show the versatility of the line, Vaccarello cast 10 female models, including Kaia Gerber, who also sported men’s looks. The show ended with bare-chested models covered in shimmering silver body paint and wearing sequined pants with metal mesh bandanas, scarves and tassels draped around their necks.

In the end, the fashion statement seemed muted compared to the impressive staging and the bold timing, allowing Saint Laurent to get the first word ahead of the men’s season about to unfold in London, Florence, Milan and Paris. Here’s hoping that as he gets more comfortable designing for men we see more of Vaccarello’s own imprint come to the forefront.

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