Architectural is a term that seems to be a go when defining the work of Saint Laurent creative director, Anthony Vaccarello. His penchant for long, lean lines and structured tailoring that plays on angularity fits the kind of juxtapositions that the word – and its industry – infer.
So to host his Men’s 2024 Summer collection for the French house inside a building created by one of the greatest modern architects – the austere temple of art that is Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie designed by the late Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Vaccarello is making a statement.
Namely: fashion is an art in its own right. The lead up to the show was a series of breadcrumbs of art: a clip of the 1950s short film Un Chant d’Amour directed by the queer writer Jean Genet.
Now on to the topic of fashion… Vaccarello has been increasingly blurring the demarcation of menswear and womenswear at Saint Laurent for several seasons. Traditionally feminine details such as trailing scarves and ribbons, bows, sheer blouses are now the language that tempers the aforementioned tailoring’s sharpness.
Whether it was the sheen of satin tanks that revealed the bare, hairless chests teamed with matching pants that were cut high at the waist, narrowing in to accentuate the equally angular models or the flounce of either leopard print wrapped shirting and sheer polkadot tops: feminine and masculine are now just analogies. Similes. Metaphors even. The language of the two now so fused for Vaccarello that they’re one and the same.
While it could be coincidence – although, given Vaccarello’s acute insight into the culture probably not – the collection also taps into the zeitgeist of sleaze, sex and seduction and the boundaries of where one ends and the other begins. (The arrival of The Idol which debuted at Cannes – for all its flaws – has put a spotlight on this, if not in a way that it intended.)
Because Berlin isn’t just home to one of the great modern galleries. It’s also infamous for its sex and club scene. Not necessarily independent of each other either. Giving menswear the kind of coding normally reserved for womenswear begs the question of how we envisage men as beings of pleasure. Not just sexually, but sensual and attuned to their own femininity.