There was a palpable shift in the air when French luxury brand Saint Laurent put on its menswear show in Morocco. No, it wasn’t the fact that it was breathtakingly staged—in the sandy dunes of the Agafay desert, for one, and with a monolithic light-up ring set-designed by Es Devlin, for another.
No, it was the fact that the spirit and look of the clothes of the runway had definitely changed. A bit of context to set the stage of understanding. When the Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello first took the creative director seat at Saint Laurent, expectations were that the designer would apply his well-established brand of super sexy. It was an expectation tempered by the look of his eponymous label, as well as a quick stint at Versus Versace.
That may have been the case at the beginning, but Vaccarello quickly began to approach the Saint Laurent archives with an askew glance. At first almost surgically, dissecting Yves Saint Laurent’s archival designs by decades. And more close to the present, more narratively by exploring more incorporeal ideas of sensuality and freedom. Big influences include Saint Laurent’s own life and his enigmatic muses like Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise.
The spring/summer 2023 collection echoes a turning point in Saint Laurent’s life. Specifically, the year 1966 when the designer discovered Marrakech. Over the years, the city became an intimate refuge away from Paris where he could find a calmer, easier rhythm of life. That sense of personal interiority is a grounding concept for this collection, in which Vaccarello also advanced his nascent—yet already hugely influential and effective—approach to dissolving the lines between masculine and feminine clothing.
Tuxedos, for example, got heavy reinterpretation and refinement. It’s a seminal part of the Saint Laurent design vocabulary, and press notes even connect both genders by describing this menswear collection as a “continuation of the variations” explored in the autumn/winter 2022 women’s season. The look in this one is simultaneously debonair and relaxed. Fluid, more lightly-constructed outer pieces, gathered coat silhouettes and cool, breathable fabrics. There’s lots of silk, for example, applied in a shiny satin finish on billowy trousers, or otherwise as blousy georgette shirts.
That lightness is contrasted with strong showings of tailoring. Those crucial tuxedos come with plenty of collar and shoulder variations, single and double-breasted options, and even a creamy version in lightweight silk faille. But the tailored fabric of choice remains grain de poudre, a fine and tactile wool that is something of a house signature. It was one of Yves Saint Laurent’s favourite fabrics to work with, and in Vaccarello’s hands opens up a new vista of style.
Photography Zantz Han
Styling Gordon Ng
Hair and make-up Kenneth Chia using MAC Cosmetics and Kevin Murphy
Model Kenji T/Now Model Management
Photographer’s assistants Michelle Yap and Sin Yean