Under Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello, Saint Laurent Is Bravely Changing the Game

The ocean is a perfect metaphor for fashion, with its ubiquitous ebb and flow, backwards and forwards through aesthetic movements and silhouettes over time. Perhaps it’s an even more fitting reference for a designer at the helm of a heritage brand: forging a new path while nodding to the great legacy behind him.

This may all sound a little esoteric, but we imagine it was, at least subconsciously, on creative director Anthony Vaccarello’s mind when he took to the moody cliffsides of Malibu to stage Saint Laurent’s Spring 2020 menswear show with a view of the Pacific as a backdrop.

Vaccarello, who has helmed Saint Laurent since 2016, is a Belgian-born wunderkind. He garnered a reputation as a mischievous mastermind with the ultra-short (and ultra-slick) womenswear at his eponymous line, which he launched at age 26. That he hadn’t designed menswear previous to his appointment at Saint Laurent may be surprising — unless you’ve been following his work.

For this latest collection, Vaccarello presented a California-by-way-of-Marrakesh assortment of edgy boho staples, including an oversized trenchcoat haphazardly tossed over denim shorts and a sheer metallic-flecked shirt paired with equally sheer harem pants. Indeed, androgyny and gender-bending are central to a bold new era of fashion — and Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent is at the forefront of that movement, where self-assuredness is the only prerequisite for wear.

The same is true for the current Fall 2019 collection, which is pictured here. In it, Vaccarello plays with shimmering, skinny black suits and black-and-white leather jackets. The vibe is androgynous, decadent, and undeniably rock-and-roll. In fact, the whole collection harkens back to Yves’s own 1970s decadence, and Vaccarello has said that Mick Jagger’s relationship with the Monsieur was among the collection’s reference points. It shows. At the Fall 2019 Paris show, angular blonde Betty Catroux lookalikes fronted the coed runway, and the show’s standout was a series of slim tailored suits with broad shoulders. Vaccarello had spent six months perfecting the proportions, with padding that extended two centimetres beyond the shoulder seams.

So who is the Saint Laurent man? That’s a question as fluid as the ocean. But one answer lies with the brand’s latest star, Keanu Reeves, whose stoner cool factor has never been more current. As the actor arrived on the sand at the Malibu show, he stared pensively into the Pacific while clad in all black before flipping the peace sign for the awaiting paparazzi, silently ushering in a whole new age of menswear.