By Anthony Vaccarello’s standards, Saint Laurent’s spring-summer ’21 collection was a relatively toned-down affair. Yes, it was staged in the sprawling, fire-laden sand dunes of some unknown far-flung locale. And yes, models wore sequin bodysuits, marabou feather gowns, and ’60s psychedelic prints—but there were also ribbed jersey leggings (a ’60s-era material Vaccarello uncovered while going through Yves’ archives), relatively sensible kitten-heeled slingbacks, and slouchy trousers—not exactly the #WFH-appropriate garb you’d expect from a man credited with bringing sex back into fashion.
Vaccarello himself called this collection his first attempt at creating “comfortable” clothing, and while wearability was evident throughout, the glamour and theatricality that has typified his tenure at Saint Laurent were also on full display—the end result was totally, jarringly fabulous. A cardigan was revamped in metallic lurex with feather-trimmed sleeves; silky negligee was worn belted and under a boxy men’s-style coat (should a lockdown-breaking midnight rendezvous arise); models wore Robyn-by-way-of-Billy-Idol peroxide cropped wigs and had oversized statement flowers affixed at the neck. At a moment where reality isn’t a particularly enjoyable place to inhabit, Vaccarello was fully embracing the essential role of fashion as fantasy.
The bike short-style leggings with a discrete gold YSL logo are sure to sell well, but after six months spent in a rotation of Pangaia tracksuit bottoms, I’m not sure that pragmatism and comfort are the things I’m looking to Saint Laurent to provide. Give me a sequinned bodysuit or a black velvet tuxedo any day, or the oh-so-90s shrunken jackets and impossibly flattering three-piece suits (although maybe you need to be Mica Argañaraz or Anja Rubik, long-time brand muses who both walked in the show, to pull the latter off).
Vaccarello’s collections always contain a thread of inspiration from his predecessor, Yves Saint Laurent, and the latter’s nonchalant ‘60s elegance was evident throughout spring summer ’21. This should come as no surprise—brand lineage aside, the ’60s is a decade ripe for plucking inspiration from as we begin to look optimistically toward 2021. The ‘free love’ sensibility feels painfully poignant during a moment where we cannot congregate in large groups or even touch each other—expect that decade to continue to inspire designers when the new collections unveil in February.
Vaccarello skipped the Paris Fashion Month schedule in October—at the time he was the first prominent designer to eschew the traditional runway format in response to the pandemic. “Saint Laurent will take ownership of its calendar and launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity,” the brand said at the time, committing to creating and releasing collections at a personal pace. The strategy seems sound. While many brands created fashion films, or digitally live streamed their runway shows, the designers that chose to wait until after the PFW calendar finished seem to be resonating more.
With a captive audience stuck inside and craving beauty, staggered, individualized runway events like Vaccarello’s are inviting customers into the elite, exclusive world of Fashion Month in a genuinely inclusive way. Who among us wouldn’t take 10 minutes out of their day to watch truly beautiful clothing grace the sprawling expanses of a country far, far away? The world may feel dramatic enough, but there’s always room for the kind of sex-laden, impeccably streamlined drama a Saint Laurent collection brings.
You can watch the full Saint Laurent spring-summer ’21 show here.