For his spring/sum­mer 2020 col­lec­tion, An­thony Vac­carello delved into the ar­chives and emerged with some­thing un­de­ni­ably new, writes Sarah Maisey

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Since tak­ing the helm at Saint Lau­rent in April 2016, cre­ative di­rec­tor An­thony Vac­carello has plun­dered the French lux­ury brand’s back cat­a­logue with some­thing bor­der­ing on glee. And what an archive to ex­plore. Since it was founded in 1961 by the leg­endary Yves Saint Lau­rent, the fashion house has been syn­ony­mous with achingly cool styling and edgy in­sou­ciance.

In his spring/sum­mer 2020 col­lec­tion, which was pre­sented in front of the Eif­fel Tower in Septem­ber as bright search­lights criss-crossed the Parisian night sky, Vac­carello ini­ti­ates a con­ver­sa­tion about op­po­sites and re­it­er­ates the highly he­do­nis­tic aes­thetic that he has con­jured for the house. Through­out this col­lec­tion, th­ese two threads are clear, with so­phis­ti­cated de­tails in a colour pal­ette of black on black, and looks that ap­pear des­tined for a dance­floor – prefer­ably that of New York’s famed Stu­dio 54.

Vac­carello does veer at times from his pre­ferred allblack colour scheme, in­tro­duc­ing au­tum­nal shades that feel rich and im­mensely beau­ti­ful on floaty and ro­man­tic sil­hou­ettes. Echo­ing the 1970s bo­hemia that Yves him­self el­e­vated from streetwear, the brand’s cur­rent cre­ative di­rec­tor ex­plores this free-spir­ited ide­ol­ogy via loose dresses and wrapped tur­bans, which, be­ing Saint Lau­rent, are fem­i­nine and deeply so­phis­ti­cated.

Riff­ing on the no­tion of op­po­sites, he mixes del­i­cate, gos­samer fab­rics with deca­dent gold em­broi­dery. Stitched in tones of an­tiqued, aged metal, this is not about nou­veau bling, but meant to evoke a rich sense of his­tory, made rel­e­vant for to­day. Archive pais­ley de­signs swirl lazily across tiered prairie dresses, while baroque flow­ers cover neg­ligee tops, which seem almost too frag­ile to hold them. Tones of ochre, burnt um­ber and dark teal are bet­ter suited to win­try clothes, yet here they are, scat­tered through a sum­mer col­lec­tion.

The em­broi­dered looks are of­fered in dizzy­ing vari­a­tion. From off-the-shoul­der and hal­ter neck, to asym­met­ric and even slashed – every neck­line has its mo­ment in this col­lec­tion. Cinched with vin­tage-style wide belts, or topped with boy­ish waist­coats, all looks were paired on the cat­walk with slouchy boots in gold, teal or oxblood.

More delv­ing through the archive un­earthed a ze­bra print that the de­signer boldly re­duced to barely-there golden de­voré un­der beaded waist­coats and gros­grain edged tail­coats, nod­ding to the anti-war be­gin­nings of this hippie re­vival.

This is Vac­carello, how­ever, so the flir­ta­tion with colour is brief, and the rest of the col­lec­tion re­treats into inky dark­ness, draw­ing us into the a er-dark glam­our of the Saint Lau­rent world. Me­tal­lic de­voré is trans­formed into pie-crust blouses, while other molten sur­faces ap­pear as flow­ing, fluid harem pants (topped with more waist­coats of jet se­quins or bead­ing) or carved into body­con mini dresses with con­tra­dic­tory flounced sleeves. Stir­rup pants are given a matt fin­ish and worn high on the calf – the extra long straps fram­ing the an­kle be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into high heels.

Of course, no Saint Lau­rent col­lec­tion would be com­plete with­out Yves’s great­est in­ven­tion, Le Smok­ing, a tuxedo cut to a women’s form. Un­der Vac­carello’s guid­ing hand, it is ei­ther el­e­gantly pre­ci­sion-cut from gleam­ing black se­quins and paired with cig­a­rette pants, or shaped looser, with squared-off shoul­ders and trousers chopped to above-the-knee shorts. There is a lit­eral take on a 1980s Rive Gauche col­lar­less jacket, now rethought as a se­quined jump­suit, but like a pho­to­graphic neg­a­tive, ar­eas once matt now gleam in in­tense satin. Not once does Vac­carello sway from the path of ul­tra-fem­i­nine, as once again he proves he has a de abil­ity to look back while al­ways mov­ing for­ward.

Saint Lau­rent’s lat­est col­lec­tion fea­tures a mix of sil­hou­ettes – from 1970s bo­hemia to black se­quinned jack­ets in­spired by Yves Saint Lau­rent’s fa­mous Le Smok­ing tuxe­dos

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