For the French powerhouse’s latest show, the label eschewed Paris for the Malibu shore
Words by ANDREW BARKER
Photography by RAINER HOSCH
Everybody knows that September is the biggest month of the year in women’s fashion. But for menswear, it is June. This is when the world gets its first taste of the following year’s Spring/Summer men’s collections across four sun-drenched fashion weeks, from New York to Paris via Florence, Milan and London. Many shows, Saint Laurent included, also feature a handful of women’s precollection looks, which offer a glimpse of the trends of tomorrow.
For his second traveling menswear show (last year’s was in New York) since he took over from Hedi Slimane (now at the helm of Celine) in 2016, Saint Laurent’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, chose Los Angeles to debut his new direction. The Belgian designer shipped the men’s Spring/Summer 2020 show from the banks of the Seine in Paris to the lapping shores of Malibu’s Paradise Cove. This crescent of sand at the foot of an imposing bluff with a rough-around-the-edges shack of a restaurant that’s been serving seafood towers and watermelon daiquiris since the 1950s was a surprising choice. But in it, he found the right cocktail of gritty charm and chilled-out cool that chimed with the primary inspiration for his collection — Marrakech in its heady heyday.
“Los Angeles has that life quality which other cities don’t have — except Paris of course,” he says. “You can feel there’s curiosity, positivity; you can breathe a douceur de vivre [sweetness of life] that I can only compare to Marrakech back in the day.”
Moreover, Vaccarello had one of the dreamiest stretches of beach in the state to work with. A simple wall of towering angled mirrors reflected the natural beauty of the illuminated bluffs and the rising tide. As you might expect when a storied brand lands on the West Coast, the oceanfront show was awash with Saint Laurent’s adoring, A-list fans. Campaign face Keanu Reeves and actor Laura Dern as well as singer-songwriters Miley Cyrus and King Princess were all in attendance. Models Anja Rubik, Hailey Bieber and Amber Valletta joined François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Saint Laurent’s parent company, Kering, on the front row next to his wife, actor Salma Hayek.
“In L.A. you can feel there’s curiosity, positivity; you can breathe a douceur de vivre”
The embroidered caftans, embellished tunics and wafting harem pants on display transported attendees to a time when Yves Saint Laurent himself would seek sanctuary in the Moroccan souks, delighting in the decadence of his second home. They appeared alongside the skinny jeans, tuxedo jackets, and louche, long neckties that predate Vaccarello but are now recognized as the brand’s house codes. As men’s and womenswear intermingled on the boardwalk-catwalk to the point of being indistinguishable, the designer’s intentions were unveiled — a largely gender-fluid, 82-look collection that is both achingly cool and acutely relevant. Immediately after the show, Vaccarello told members of the press who had jetted in from around the world: “When I do men’s, I think of women’s; and when I do women’s, I think of men’s.”
It is no surprise that the designer cites Mick Jagger as his principal muse for the collection. Having been asked to design pieces of the rock deity’s wardrobe for the Rolling Stones’ U.S. No Filter tour, Vaccarello spent time with Sir Mick and was granted access to his extensive clothing archive. Naturally, some of the garments directly inspired looks in the collection. In particular, the mid-’70s pieces that at the time were dubbed “effeminate” but now would be celebrated as “genderless” inspired him the most.
“Los Angeles has that life quality which other cities don’t have. I just feel free”
“After meeting Mick Jagger, he showed me his wardrobe, and I was particularly attracted by the details, the colors, the attitude,” Vaccarello says. “Mick is one of the ultimate coolest guys ever. I’ve always been inspired by him and Serge Gainsbourg. They were similar in the way of wearing a tuxedo with nonchalance.”
As Paris-based DJs The Blaze performed at the afterparty on the sand, spicy tequila cocktails and Saint Laurent-branded coconuts were passed around — something you could never picture at a haughty fashion party in Paris. But, as we Californians know too well, L.A. has that ability to loosen up even the stiffest collars. When asked how it felt to show in Malibu, Vaccarello concluded: “I just feel free. Free to express myself in the way I want.”
Feature image: The SAINT LAURENT men’s Spring/Summer 2020 runway show, held on the shores of Paradise Cove, Malibu.
This story originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of C Magazine.
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