Since the very beginning of his career, Yves Saint Laurent established himself as a strong supporter of women by throwing off the many social shackles of the time. His fashion house has been since democratised and glamourised even further, now run by designer Anthony Vaccarello.
Maison Saint Laurent, a part of the Kering group, continues to grow, with more than two billion euros in sales in 2019. What is the secret of this craze? An elegant and uninhibited seduction, as well as eloquent pieces, all made with the delicacy that brings savoir-faire. For next autumn, the collection will showcase a silhouette with an assertive stature, willfully revealing the bewitchment of the notches, and will feature lots of varnished pieces and vinyls for modern amazons. To (re)discover the origins of the passion that has been driving this succesful and rule-breaking brand for so long, Betty Catroux, the female double, muse and friend of Yves Saint Laurent as well as Anthony Vaccarello, has donated to the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent several hundreds of iconic silhouettes, pieces of history and plots of his life, which will be revealed during an exhibition.
Female Curve Writing
Duality has always been a part of Saint Laurent's spirit, shifting between sensualized androgyny and nonchalant luxury. The Yves Saint Laurent Paris Museum has, therefore, baptised its new exhibition Singular Feminine: saharan jumpsuits, trench coats, iconic pantsuits, and so many other subtle messages demonstrating a societal evolution, inseparable from the silhouette of Betty Catroux, will be exhibited until October 11, 2020.
In 1968, Yves Saint Laurent, captivated by the ease how his muse hybridises the masculine an the feminine, talked about her in the magazine Women's Wear Daily: "She is perfect in my clothes. Just what I like. Long, long, long." Anthony Vaccarello shares the ideas of his predecessor: "She is Saint Laurent as she breathes. Her allure, her mystery, her subversive side, an elusive, desirable, almost palpable danger; you can understand the codes of this house when you meet Betty." The designer was given carte blanche to select anything from the donations of the it-lady: around fifty pieces that best embody the identity of the brand and its heritage. Betty recounts their first meeting: "It was three years ago during the inauguration of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech. We had a fabulous coup! Seduction, isn't it the basis of Saint Laurent? I love his elegant attitude. He understands the Saint Laurent spirit."
Oran, Brussels, Paris
"I love his attitude; it touched me a lot. He has a real elegance, a wonderful allure. He captures very well this Saint Laurent atmosphere, this kind of mystery. This way of seeing women," explains Catroux. Having an impeccable intuition when it comes to contemporary aspirations of femininity, the Belgian then translates it into festive collections - timeless yet progressive and faithful to the identity of the house. Betty Catroux points out that Anthony completely surrounded her: "He selected the pieces better than I would have done. He was the one who, out of the 300 models I donated to the Pierre Bergé - Yves Foundation Saint Laurent, chose the 45 that suited me the most. So I did not get involved. I discovered the exhibition on the opening day!" Anthony Vaccarello perceived the emotional dimension of each silhouette, and its prescriptive force - style that has its own signature, chic and sharp, with precise cuts and patterns.
Since his appointment as the artistic direction of the house, he has been working quite discreetly, which is typical of Belgian designers: "It's always been trendy to be Belgian in Paris: the French love our simple and serious side, certain form of humility. We are less into clichés, that pleases."
Towards the Summits
Saint Laurent parades each season at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, which seems to light up at 8 p.m. precisely every time. Adorn yourself, get on the dance floor, and the amaze world around! For the newest collection, a curvaceous catwalk was rolled out for cutting-edge models. What was the highlight of this winter? Details of a men's jacket combined with the conquering sensuality of women. Anthony Vaccarello wanted to revisit the bourgeois elegance of Saint Laurent in the 90s. The Saint Laurent woman claims to be sulphurous: latex by day, cashmere at night - or the opposite - and both at noon. Plain tones, archival colours and fabrics (neon purple and houndstooth), panther or polka dot patterns mixed with vinyl - the designer translates this clash of sexyness that still assures an unadorned elegance: "I wanted to find this balance or tension that defines the modernity of the Saint Laurent style, between mastering rigor and giving up pleasure. Saint Laurent is the necessity of elegance and perversity. One without the other would be only bourgeoisie or vulgarity. Mr. Saint Laurent had a very particular vision of the bourgeoisie. Almost a rejection of it. It is this tension that stimulated me this season and made me want to detach myself from these overly conventional codes. Saint Laurent is a danger."
The Fatal Woman
Anthony Vaccarello is one of european designers whose creative universe has been highly influenced by Latin codes. "I absolutely wanted to join La Cambre. Firstly, because I am from Brussels. Secondly, at the end of the 90s, there was a lot of talk about Olivier Theyskens. He fascinated me, especially because he dressed Madonna, of whom I was a huge fan. In 1999, I attended the school show, and Laetitia Crahay's collection made me crazy by its accuracy." After La Cambre, the young designer took his first steps in fashion at Fendi in Rome alongside Karl Lagerfeld: "This is where I really realised that fashion is not just about sketches and research. It's ever-changing and it must sell. I understood the reality of a studio of creation with Karl."
In 2014, Donatella Versace entrusted him with the reins of Versus, the little sister of Versace. While more and more of Anthony's style was appearing in the collections, the brand reached a new level of success. Just like Yves Saint Laurent, many dynamic women started to support and propell his journey: Lou Doillon, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Caroline de Maigret, and Anja Rubik. "Muses are part of the game. I'm not looking for celebrities at all costs. The main thing is that I understand a woman well enough to dress her."
A Renewed Brand
Each season, Anthony Vaccarello reinvents Saint Laurent, while still being respectful of the brand's history. Fashion is his language: "If you don't have the sacred fire, you have to do something else." The fans of the house are addicted, with each new generation discovering the power of an advanced and controlled seduction. Since the start of his career, the designer has been lucid about his work and the need for constant perfectionism: "Success is never a fluke. You have to meet the right people. You have to be open to the slightest sign, seize opportunities. Nothing is random. You have to want it above all." But after all, how was Betty Catroux able to part with hundreds of pieces? "To be honest, I was very happy to get rid of the past, all these clothes depressed me. They are beautiful, certainly, but they no longer concern me. By giving them away, I am looking twenty years younger! "