What Anthony Vaccarello Is Thinking
Is the quiet but provocative young designer fashion’s new heir apparent? By Alexandra Marshall. Photographed by Driu Crilly and Tiago Martel.
Anthony Vaccarello sits in a local, mildly jazzed up café on an unglamorous boulevard in the 10th Arrondissement of Paris. It’s the afternoon after his Autumn ’16 show in March, and he’s the definition of unperturbed. Last night’s show of his signature line, Anthony Vaccarello, all lace-up minis and corset detailing, was his best ever attended, and Versus Versace, where he double-timed as creative director till last April, was on an expansion tear during his helm, with new stores in New York, London, and Paris. Vaccarello is resolutely low-key about seemingly everything, which is the secret to his sanity and part of his charm. “It’s like he’s not aware of his success,” says his friend and muse, Anja Rubik, who boosted Vaccarello’s name when she wore his slashed-to-the-hip ivory silk gown to 2012’s Met Gala. (She was also kicked off Instagram for trying to #freethenipple in one of his slinky, transparent black tops.) “It’s almost like he doesn’t want to adjust to the times we’re living in now and turn himself into a huge personality,” she continues. “He knows his work is the most important part and it should speak for itself.”
Even though his clothes make bold and sexy statements, Vaccarello himself takes a very different approach with his business. “I work Monday to Sunday,” he explains. “My atelier is three floors down from my apartment.” You will rarely, if ever, see him on the party pages. “I go home after work! And I don’t think designers have to be so overexposed. I’m not into selfies. I don’t care!” Although Gisele Bündchen and Charlotte Gainsbourg are fans, Vaccarello winces at the thought of loaning to celebrities. “Everyone knows now that celebrities are paid to wear things, and I hate that. When I was a teenager, I was so impressed by people like Madonna wearing Jean Paul Gaultier, but it’s not like that anymore. If I do dress someone, I want to be sure she really supports me and wants to be part of my universe. But I don’t even think my dresses are for the red carpet, which is about Chantilly and colours and big skirts right now.”
The fashion industry today is arriving at a forked path. Some are rushing to embrace the digital present: Designer brands like Burberry and Diane von Furstenberg are selling direct from the runway, while other houses add ever more lines and shows. The road less travelled, though, is emerging as a respectable one. Azzedine Alaïa, one of Vaccarello’s heroes, is the sherpa here, as are Helmut Lang and Hedi Slimane. This isn’t a bad thing, as burned-out creatives will attest. But complaining about the workload is not Vaccarello’s style. “To be honest, I don’t understand the burnout,” he says. “It’s not that complicated. I’m not doing it all by myself. I have a team at my company, so I don’t get why there’s such pressure.” For him, brands constantly launching new tricks feels a little desperate. “We have to take a break and stop running after the customer. Luxury has to be slower. If we try to keep up with the faster outside world, we die. When brands try too hard to sell 10 million coats, you don’t want to keep buying. It’s about desire and creating desire. We need to dream, but we don’t need another shirt.”
Over the years, Vaccarello has returned again and again to select motifs: slits, sharp tailoring, legs, pieced-together construction, revealing draping, black, leather. This has earned him criticism from some quarters, but he’s definitely not bored with the possibilities of gabardine and cashmere. “With Versus, I tried to put house codes on classic, recognisable garments, while for my brand it’s more like an atelier, searching for new volume, like a laboratory for me. I’m more interested than ever in classic fabrics—real wool, real cashmere. If I ever run out of things to do with them, I suppose I’ll stop designing and say, ‘No, thank you.’”
Swirling rumours of Vaccarello succeeding Slimane at Saint Laurent were confirmed in April when he was announced creative director of the French fashion house, but Vaccarello is still untroubled by outsize ambitions. He is not interested in developing a perfume or his own retail concept. “People buy so much online, I feel like a store is not that important. I’ve never planned anything in my career; I’ve always just taken things as they come.” It is clear that no matter what happens, he won’t be making much noise about it.
“I don’t think designers have to be so overexposed.” – Anthony Vaccarello
Clothing; and accessories (worn throughout), all from Anthony Vaccarello.
Vaccarello with his muse and friend, model Anya Rubik