In the power skirmish between luxury groups, Kering is upping its game. For the second season, Anthony Vaccarello showed his Saint Laurent collection across from the Eiffel Tower, only this time, in a vast indoor space, its imposing exoskeleton an industrial grid of metal scaffolding supports and hundreds (thousands?) of round lights that beamed into the night sky. Inside, more lights would follow the models’ walks across the expanse of the vast, wide-plank wooden floor.
The power statement was driven home at the end of the show. The invitation and follow-up e-mail promised a start time of “precisely” 8 p.m. Just as Marc Jacobs has done in New York, Saint Laurent proved it can be done. Only here, there was more to it than the philosophical notion that an 8 p.m. show should start at 8 p.m. The doorway was positioned to frame the base of the tower, and the show, timed so that guests exiting at about 8:15 would come upon its hourly, after-dark light show. It typically starts on the hour but clearly, Kering managed to delay the twinkles for 15 minutes. It was spectacular.
More spectacular than the clothes? Well, yes. But the Eiffel Tower glittering up-close and on command is a hard match with clothes. Still, Vaccarello turned out a strong collection and a smart one, too, filled with what a notable predecessor, Tom Ford, would call “potent pieces.” Backstage after the show, Vaccarello said he was inspired by “the Russian collection of Monsieur Saint Laurent, but with more of a Parisian direction.” He name-checked Loulou and Betty [de la Falaise] and [Catroux], and theme-checked bohemian, street and tailoring.
In merch terms, that translated to an all-black women’s lineup featuring versatile leathers, romantic blouses and high-function decorative flourish, including a tassel-trimmed sequined jacket and a crystal-embroidered, Prince of Wales smoking. How to disguise the inherent practicality of such? By pairing the wardrobe-building pieces with black leather hooker shorts. “For me, short is the best way to describe modernity,” Vaccarello said. “It’s the best way to walk…the legs are not something you have to hide.” But just in case, he showed terrific stovepipe cropped jeans, and you can bet the commercial collection offers additional options.
Save for a couple of great-looking suits, Vaccarello’s men also got the items treatment. It started with a lean silhouette, whatever volume there was coming in a range of outerwear, from parkas and bomber jackets to a dramatic-glam Dracula cape, tossed on over a sweater and trousers.
After the guys, it was back to women’s and evening, including a group of would-be simple black gowns flaunting inventive necklines that bordered on silly. Vaccarello’s finale featured a lineup of short, big-shouldered metallic floral dresses of that Eighties-screaming genre that’s like the musical “Cats.” You love it or you really don’t.
Then the exit, and the twinkling majesty of Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece, that of a genre you either love or you’re crazy.