Yves Y Saint Lau­rent’s new man.

Na­ture-in­spired de­sign­ers’ new leaf.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - CLAU­DIA CROFT

It was fashion’s worst-kept se­cret. Long be­fore Hedi Sli­mane ex­ited Yves Saint Lau­rent at the be­gin­ning of the month, An­thony Vac­carello was be­ing touted as his suc­ces­sor. “Vac­cawho?” you may ask. Even in fashion cir­cles he’s a rel­a­tive un­known: his big­gest gig so far has been de­sign­ing the Ver­sus range for Ver­sace. But Saint Lau­rent’s owner, Ker­ing king­pin Fran­cois-Henri Pin­ault, has a rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing dar­ing ap­point­ments. No­body had heard of Alessan­dro Michele un­til he took over at Gucci in Jan­uary last year and in­stantly re­vived its for­tunes. Sim­i­larly, Vete­ments de­signer Demna Gvasalia has made Balenciaga the la­bel to watch this au­tumn. Like his two Ker­ing group col­leagues, Vac­carello, 33, who got the job on April 4, has been taken from ob­scu­rity and thrust into the fashion big league.

Born in Brus­sels to Ital­ian par­ents — his fa­ther was a waiter and his mother worked in an of­fice — Vac­carello went to law school but ditched it af­ter a year to pur­sue his cre­ative dream, study­ing sculp­ture at La Cam­bre school in Brus­sels. Now he’s tak­ing over one of the fastest grow­ing names in lux­ury fashion, Saint Lau­rent. The la­bel recorded a 26 per cent leap in sales last year; in the pre­vi­ous four years they grew from $526 mil­lion to $1.45 bil­lion.

Vac­carello’s first col­lec­tion will be un­veiled in Oc­to­ber, so what can we ex­pect? Aes­thet­i­cally, he has made his name with sin­u­ous clothes with an ur­ban edge, ex­pertly sliced to re­veal and con­ceal the flesh. “When I do a col­lec­tion, I don’t think about mak­ing sex­ual stuff, it’s all about mak­ing real clothes. But I am al­ways try­ing to push the bound­aries and find my own vo­cab­u­lary. It’s about find­ing a good line, play­ing with good taste and cut­ting in a way I find chic.” Tem­per­a­men­tally, it’s hard to imag­ine him be­ing as di­vi­sive as Sli­mane, who was sav­aged by crit­ics for mak­ing retro clothes that seemed too straight­for­ward to be con­sid­ered great de­sign but that proved cat­nip for cus­tomers.

I met Vac­carello in Paris re­cently. Slen­der, in a black leather jacket and jeans, he has dark, in­tense eyes matched by masses of quiet con­fi­dence. Since launch­ing his own la­bel in 2009, he has been in­tent on re­defin­ing sexy dress­ing for a new gen­er­a­tion and over­haul­ing the cliches. “We are in a pe­riod where women have to be pow­er­ful,” he says. In his world, short-skirted leggy looks give you free­dom of move­ment, leather gives a sense of power, and black al­lows the wo­man to be seen. Over tea at the Ho­tel Costes, we talked about his de­sign phi­los­o­phy. Don’t call it sexy “It feels like an in­sult in a way be­cause peo­ple have a bad idea of sexy,” he says. His col­lec­tions may be strong on short skirts, spliced gowns and black leather but, “for me, it’s more about free­dom than sex, and a girl, when she’s free, she is sexy. But when she tries too much, it’s a dis­as­ter.” Try-hard girls, be warned: low-key hair and make-up, flat shoes and an un­done at­ti­tude are Vac­carello’s tips for pulling off short and tight in a mod­ern way. He be­gins with men's wear “I re­ally like tai­lor­ing, and I al­ways start with men’s clothes on women. Peo­ple don’t see it be­cause when I fin­ish, it’s short.” His cut­ting skills will be well re­ceived by “le smok­ing”-ob­sessed Saint Lau­rent cus­tomers. His look hardly can be de­scribed as an­drog­y­nous, though. For au­tumn, he mixed man­nish jack­ets with corsetry, and his big tip for any­one want­ing to up­date their LBD is to wear a slouchy mas­cu­line blazer over the top. Black is al­ways back His col­lec­tions have al­ways em­braced black, of­ten ac­cented by art­fully placed slits to re­veal bare skin. “Why do some­thing in yel­low if it’s bet­ter in black?” For him, it’s the most flat­ter­ing colour any­one could wear. “You see the shape, you see the face, you see the skin, the hands. It’s like a sketch.” Em­brace the power of leather It’s one of his favourite ma­te­ri­als, hav­ing honed his The free­dom of the short His short skirts — some styled to look like corsets, with lac­ing over the hips, are de­signed to be lib­er­at­ing. “They’re sporty and ur­ban. It’s about free­dom. You are not blocked with a skirt. You are free. You have noth­ing in the way, you just have to walk.”

And for those not com­fort­able with get­ting their pins out, he has come up with a new way to wear his leggy sil­hou­ette. “It’s in­ter­est­ing to have a beau­ti­ful dress but with jeans,” he says. “It doesn’t look over­dressed. I think that is so cool.”

He al­ways been the one to watch

(For those who know where to look …) On grad­u­at­ing in 2006, Vac­carello won the pres­ti­gious Hy­eres fashion prize with a col­lec­tion in­spired by La Cic­ci­olina, the Ital­ian porn star and politi­cian. Karl Lager­feld was so im­pressed by his use of leather, he im­me­di­ately hired him for Fendi. He launched his own la­bel in 2009 with a tiny cap­sule col­lec­tion, which quickly gath­ered a cool-girl fol­low­ing. Early adopters in­cluded Lou Doil­lon and the hot-bod­ied su­per­model Anja Ru­bik. (Vac­carello says it will now close, so he can fo­cus on Yves Saint Lau­rent.) Donatella Ver­sace tapped him to de­sign her Ver­sus col­lec­tion in 2014, de­scrib­ing his de­signs as “sexy, dy­namic, au­da­cious”. He says: “She re­built Ver­sace — it’s her la­bel now. For me, there are two liv­ing leg­ends, Donatella and Karl Lager­feld. To work with both was amaz­ing.”

A look from the An­thony Vac­carello Spring 2016 col­lec­tion skills dur­ing the two years he spent at Fendi, where the crafts­peo­ple can do al­most any­thing with it. He be­lieves it makes women look pow­er­ful. “It gives girls an at­ti­tude that is su­per­strong. The touch of leather is just so sen­sual, it’s sen­sa­tional on the skin.”

An­thony Vac­carello with his favourite model, Anja Ru­bik, at the 2013 Met Gala, above; looks from his Au­tumn 16/17 col­lec­tion, above cen­tre and right

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