The first signs as to where Anthony Vaccarello was going with his Saint Laurent men’s show in Berlin—a miracle of impressive tailoring broad in the shoulders and attenuated in the legs, interspersed with yet more shoulders, nakedly fragile this time, framed by gossamer silk or chiffon sleeveless shirting—was to be found on Instagram.
That’s the thing with these destination shows:
You tend to start sleuthing about what’s going to be on the runway before the plane has touched down on the tarmac. In the case of Saint Laurent, Vaccarello posted days before his show a brief clip of the 1950 French short film, Un Chant d’Amour, a grainy black and white ode to sensuality as much to criminality, and directed by the writer Jean Genet. Vaccarello also mentioned the name of the collection: Each Man Kills the Things He Loves.
For Genet-philes (up goes my hand here) the title was, by way of Oscar Wilde, the song sung by Jeanne Moreau in a movie adaptation of one of the French writer’s great novels, Querelle de Brest.
It was later filmed in 1982 by Rainer Werner Fassbinder simply as Querelle. Et voila, there you have it:
Moreau, an icon of the French nouvelle vague, as Parisian as, well, Yves Saint Laurent, and Fassbinder, one of Berlin’s most legendary directors, a man who knew a thing or two about dissonant sexuality and the power between men and women as much as, well, again, Saint Laurent.
Still, what Vaccarello showed this Monday evening was far, far more than a clue-laden trail of reference A to B.
He himself might have Berlin as part of his own personal landscape of the past—as a student in Brussels back in the day, he would hit the city’s still-going-at-noon-the-next-day nightclubs—but in many respects, this impressive and assured outing wasn’t only about the city.
Just as this past January’s show wasn’t really just about Paris or his Marrakech show in the summer of 2022 just about Morocco. Berlin is but the latest point in an ongoing design trajectory.
While there might be deft and nimble references to each locale, with each carrying a certain resonance in the YSL universe, this was, once again, Vaccarello in superbly rigorous mode, an approach echoed by his choice of venue, the structural precision of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie.
“When you leave the show, I want you to have the silhouette clearly in your head.”Anthony Vaccarello
In other words, it’s a design approach that’s thoughtful, concise, and intent on stripping away the fuss to the perfect distillation of 50 looks, exploring—and what could be more YSL than this?—the exquisite tension between tailleur, aka suiting, and flou, all that light-as-air, fluid, sensual soft dressing, of which there was plenty in this men’s show.