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YSL Spring 2024 Runway Review – How 3 Iconic Creations by Yves Saint Laurent Inspired the Collection

YSL Spring 2024 Runway Review – How 3 Iconic Creations by Yves Saint Laurent Inspired the Collection

YSL Spring 2024 Runway Review – How 3 Iconic Creations by Yves Saint Laurent Inspired the Collection

Fashion month is over and one of the most discussed shows is the Yves Saint Laurent Spring Summer Ready-to-Wear 2024 Show. Anthony Vaccarello moved into a new direction – some call it “quiet luxury”, some call it “boring and easy to copy”. I watched the show online and did some digging about Vaccarello’s inspiration and it got very clear where he was headed with this. He was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s creations in the 1960s, namely three major icons which also stand for women’s empowerment: the Saharienne (the safari jacket), the jumpsuit and the so-called “nude look” where sheer tops exposed the female breasts. As a supporter of women’s empowerment Yves Saint Laurent himself wanted to give women confidence by wearing these creations. Similarly, Vaccarello was inspired by female trailblazers. Let’s see how this whole collection turned out.

If you prefer to watch my video, you can do it here:

Who Is Anthony Vaccarello?

Let me just briefly talk about Anthony Vaccarello because I think it is crucial to know about his path and past designs to understand his current collection.

Vaccarello is an Italian-Belgian designer. Before joining YSL, he worked for Versus Versace and his own eponymous label and became known for his modern and structured silhouettes. Vaccarello was born to Italian parents in Brussels in 1982. He initially started to study law but after one year he switched to studying sculpture. He was drawn to garment construction when styding the works of Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Azzedine Aläia.[1]

Azzedine Alaia and Naomi Campbell.

When he won at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in 2006, he was noticed by Karl Lagerfeld who offered him a job at Fendi to design its fur line. Vaccarello moved to Paris in 2008 and started his own label which was awarded the ANDAM prize in 2011. In 2012, model Anja Rubik wore one of his creation to the Met Gala which can be seen as kickstarting a line of celebrity followers, among them Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez.[2]

Anja Rubik wearing Anthony Vaccarello at the Met Gala in 2012.

In 2014, Vaccarello worked with Versus (the younger brand of Versace) – he started with a capsule collection and then became creative director of the brand. Versus’s retail sales more than doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year and wholesale revenue rose by over 20%.[3] 

He replaced Hedi Slimane as the creative directory of YSL in 2016. The former had infused the brand with a rock’n’roll spirit, The Business of Fashion even said he had turned the brand into a “grunge label”[4]. He famously dropped the “Yves” in the brand name and turned it into Kering’s fastest growing label. During his time between 2012 and 2016, Slimane was known for controlling every single step – from the design, to advertising, to photography and the revenue reached almost USD 1 billion. Vaccarello has currently put his own label on hold and is in charge of the YSL womenswear and menswear lines. He said that YSL was turned into a young and contemporary brand thanks to his predecessor Slimane. Nevertheless, he moved the brands focus back from Los Angeles to Paris and refocuses more on the original YSL design philosophy. He famously also deleted the brand’s previous Instagram posts in an effort to reintroduce YSL. At Vaccarello’s appointment, YSL-CEO Francesca Bellettini said he was a “perfect fit” as he “impeccably balances elements of provocative femininity and sharp masculinity in his silhouettes. He is the natural choice to express the essence of Yves Saint Laurent.”[5].[6]

I have always been a big fan of Yves Saint Laurent himself. There are very few designers who have had such a major impact on fashion for such a long period of time. To me, Yves Saint Laurent not only stood for innovative designs but also for their beauty and the fact that the designer wanted to empower women and make them feel confident in his garments. Taking over the legacy of such a genius is a by far not an easy task. It is always a tricky balance between the original design ethos and the creative director’s own ideas. It can either be an interpretation of the originals which is too literal, or it can be the creative director’s own view without considering the core of the brand. Many brands faced similar developments – for example Dior, Lanvin or Schiaparelli.

To be perfectly honest, I was not a big fan of the Slimane-era. He is a very talented designer but I am not a big fan of his “grunge”-aesthetics. I understood what he tried to achieve, he wanted to make the brand more appealing to younger customers. And there were some beautiful designs. However, I was not a big fan of the whole logo-approach and the focus on accessories. I get it from a business perspective: accessories (and clothes) are one of the biggest revenue drivers. But I am disappointed when a brand with such a legacy reduces itself to a niche. Furthermore, I did not understand why the logo had to firstly drop the “Yves” and then also change the font. The logo was designed by Cassandre who also designed silk scarves for Hermès (you can learn more about this in my video about the artists behind the Hermès carrés). It was and still is iconic and I did not see a need to change. But these are details. I was curious about Vaccarello’s strategy for the brand and his designs and hoped that it would be a bit less heavy marketing and more focus on the clothes.

Vaccarello’s Design Path at YSL

Vaccarello’s first collection for the house was for Spring 2017. In the beginning, I was not sure what to think. The collections did not feel cohesive to me. I liked his structural approach to the garments and also how he went into the archives. But somehow the collections felt that it was individual designs put together instead of one cohesive line. Furthermore, I found some colour-combinations a bit strange. The first collection where I saw that it was going in a direction of contemporary YSL was the Fall Ready-to-Wear 2020 collection. Apart from some strange colours for some latex designs, I discovered two designs where I thought that this is a cool new interpretation of YSL’S work:

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vacarello, Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear Collection.

The first one, was a tailored camel-coloured jacket with black latex – it looks like a skirt and boots. The model wore a smart hat.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear Collection.

The second one, was a beautiful pink jacket citing the famous “Saharienne” by YSL himself which we will see for the current Spring/Summer collection 2024.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vacarello, Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear.

From then onwards, I saw where Vaccarello was heading. For the Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection he created an ensemble with a transparent top which is very much the essence of Yves himself and paired it with gold jewellery and a big flower belt. I really liked that.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear.

For the Fall collection of the same year, he created some interesting jackets in tweed in bright colours and also in gold. It did give a Chanel-feel but I still very much liked that.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vacarello, Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear.

Since the 2022 collections, it feels that Vaccarello has arrived at a balanced of the brand’s legacy and his own take on it. He started to balance his own structural designs with the big shoulders, incorporated the sheer fabrics and references to the archives such as big buttons or Eighties-colours.

Drape designs for the Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear collection which were inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s designs in the late 1980s.

And for some time, Vaccarello has been taking a close look at the archives. One of the most obvious was the Spring Ready-to-Wear collection 2023, where he referenced referenced the late 1980s-designs of Yves Saint Laurent with hooded and draped dresses and paired them with big coats or biker jackets.

A draped ensemble with hood, Yves Saint Laurent in 1989.

The YSL Spring Ready-to-Wear 2024 Collection

The runway show took place with the Eiffel Tower in the backdrop but, frankly, even without that view, the show itself was beautiful designed. The fake walls which were put up looked like marble stones or rocks in a desert and this is the overall feel I got from the location, design and the garments: Sahara. 

Fact #1 The Saharienne and Women’s Empowerment

Yves Saint Laurent’s Iconic “Saharienne”, the safari jacket, created in the 1960s.

It comes as no surprise because one of the major design references was to Yves Saint Laurent’s famous “Saharienne” jacket. 

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello Spring 2024, safari jacket-inspired design.

Yves Saint Laurent created this jacket for his runway shows in 1967 and initially, it was a one-off creation for a photo section in French Vogue. But in 1968, this jacket became so famous and achieved kind of a cult status as a classic over the years. It is very important to look at the context of fashion history at the time. The 1950s were heavily influenced by the “New Look” created by Christian Dior. It emphasized a very feminine silhouette, bell-shaped skirts and a narrow waist. In the 1960s, a lot of things changed and part of these changes was also the women’s movement. Women demanded more rights, the pill allowed the control over their body and the “New Look” did not reflect this Zeitgeist anymore. It was the time of the mini skirt, of women wearing pants, looking feminine was not the goal anymore.

Yves Saint Laurent with his iconic creations.

Yves Saint Laurent had started to borrow male elements and use them for women’s fashion. For the Saharienne, he was inspired by the Afrika Korps during World War II and the outfits worn my Occidental men in Africa. The jacket was made from cotton gabardine which is a twill weave fabric and it is very suitable for the hot climate. Using these male codes for womenswear was something unexpected and it perfectly reflected this new movement of women’s empowerment. The success of this jacket also lead to a ready-to-wear version which was sold as soon as in 1969 and until today, there have been many iterations of this iconic item. This jacket allowed women to feel comfortable while at the same time looking modern.[7]

Veruschka in an Yves Saint Laurent safari jacket.

Vaccarello’s interpretation of the Saharienne was obvious from the start of the runway show. As I mentioned before, the colour scheme was speaking “Sahara” – camel, brown tones, nudes, white and black. And already the first look was a nod to the jacket – a cream-coloured jumpsuit with a brown leather belt and brown high heels. Vaccarello added big gold earrings and 1980s makeup. When that first look started the show, the references were immediately clear.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello Spring 2024, safari jacket-inspired design.

Backstage, Vaccarello explained that he aimed to make things very simple, he wanted to move away from decorative elements such as embroidery and called the collection a “clean canvas”[8] (Vogue). This also becomes clear with his interpretation of the Saharienne: he removed the cross-lacing in the front and used big buttons instead.[9]

His version of the Saharienne then included tops, shirts, dresses. The last two looks of the show were with slightly transparent Saharienne tops. The very last one was a cropped version of it.

Fact #2 The Jumpsuit

This brings me to another key element – as I said before, there were different interpretations of the Saharienne and one was the jumpsuit. Like this iconic jacket, the jumpsuit was an important piece of design development for Yves Saint Laurent himself.

Pilots in jumpsuits.

This garment is linked to the safari jacket because it was also first presented for the Spring/Summer 1968 collection. The jumpsuit originates from aviation – pilots used to wear it and similar to the Saharienne, a garment created for men inspired Yves Saint Laurent for womenswear. While the men’s version covered the shape of the male body, Yves Saint Laurent’s female version did exactly the opposite and created an elegant silhouette emphasizing the female curves. Saint Laurent himself even called his design aesthetics androgynous and argued that he saw that men were much more self-confident and he wanted to give women the same confidence.[10]

Yves Saint Laurent’s first jumpsuit was presented for Spring/Summer 1968.

Vaccarello took up this idea and also took this garment originating from aviation. He explicitly pointed out the female aviators who served as a source of inspiration for him: Amelia Earhart and Adrienne Bollhand, a French test pilot who was the She was the first woman to fly over the Andes between Chile and Argentina.[11]

Female pilots such as Amelia Earhart served as a source of inspiration for Vaccarello.

Some articles mentioned that the jumpsuits also looked like the ones from Formula 1, but I honestly did not see that. My initial reaction was the story of “Le Petit Prince”, “The Little Prince”. Maybe it was also because of the “Sahara-setting”. Furthermore, the accessories such as the hats and aviator shades clearly hint at pilots and not at Formula 1 drivers who would wear helmets. Hence, I do not see the link to Formula 1 here.[12]

Vaccarello made his reference to the pilots clear by giving the models aviator sunglasses and, more obviously, pilot hats. At first, I was a bit startled when I saw them but when I then looked at Vaccarello’s explanations regarding the designs, I got the idea and when you look at a picture of Bolland, for example, it is actually pretty obvious. I am not sure if they are something we would wear every day but I assume it was more about the statement of female empowerment rather than the wearability of the accessory.

Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello Spring 2024, Aviation-inspired details.

The jumpsuit within the universe of Yves Saint Laurent, can hence be seen, again as a sign for the empowerment of women. It is a utilitarian garment, meant for work. But Yves himself managed to turn it into something really feminine. And I also think that Vaccarello did a good job here. I am not a big fan of cargo pants in general – they remind me of my fashion faux pas of my teenage years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But Vaccarello’s version of the pants with elongated legs because of the extreme length, the material and paired with different kinds of tops and the 80s-style jewellery make them look really cool actually.

Vaccarello’s interpretation of the aviators’ jumpsuits paired with 80s jewellery and red lips.

Another menswear element which Vaccarello added were his interpretations of trench coats – again a garment originally taken from military uniforms for men. Today we do not even question the unisex use of this garment anymore. Furthermore, there were more details emphasizing workwear such as the rolled-up sleeves.

Menswear turned into women’s garments were one major theme for Vaccarello and Saint Laurent himself.

Vaccarello usually is known for his eveningwear collection but for this collection, he only included three long mousseline dresses almost at the end of the show. The last two looks featured pants again – maybe in an evening interpretation but not necessarily. I think the statement for this collection – menswear elements for womenswear – was made quite clear.

Fact #3 Sheer Designs

Just before Yves Saint Laurent launched the Saharienne and the jumpsuit, he came up with another important design element in 1966. This time, was the start of the sexual revolution which I have mentioned before relating to women’s empowerment. After the heavy and opulent designs of the 1950s, the female body was gradually revealed. This also relates back to Rudi Gernreich who designed the very first monokini in 1965 where the breasts of the wearer were completely exposed.[13]

Rudi Gernreich created his Monokini in 1965.

You have to imagine how shocking this must have been after the conservative 1950s. Today we see a lot of that but back then, this was unheard of. In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent created his first transparent look made of cigaline, a transparent silk fabric. In 1968 he created one of his most famous design: a sheer chiffon dress with an ostrich feather belt. “Nothing is more beautiful than a naked body,” Saint Laurent said and his “nude look”[14] was born.[15]

One of Saint Laurent’s most iconic designs was this sheer dress with ostrich feathers.

By analyzing Vaccarello’s collection, it becomes clear that he was very much influenced by the 1960s. The sheer designs were also taken up by him – he already did that in previous collections. This time, the transparent tops were paired with the cargo pants, skirts. For some designs, he also added light shawls which I thought looked really elegant.

Sheer tops are nothing new for Vaccarello but his statement for female empowerment was stronger than in previous collections.

Further Details

There were some details which very much referred to the archives such as the gloves which wear often incorporate by Yves Saint Laurent himself. Vaccarello already incorporated gloves in previous collections. I also spotted the loose tops before – in the Fall 2023 collection – but I think they make the ensembles look really cool and effortless. 

Many articles called the collection “quiet luxury” which is a current trend countering the logomania. I do not really want to focus too much on that here because I personally find it too premature to see were this is going and I usually do not focus on hypes. What I personally found too quiet in this collection were the simple dresses – in my opinion they were a bit too simple. Something was missing. But what I liked was the absence of animal print – in previous Vaccarello collections this was a recurring theme and when thinking about the desert topic, some may have come up. I also very much like the big jewellery – the earrings and bangles (we have also seen them before with Vaccarello) and the 80s makeup with the red lips.

Conclusion

At first sight, the collection might look too clean, maybe even boring. But I personally liked it. I find many pieces wearable – which, frankly, is a bit rare these days on the runways when everything has to be planned to catch the attention on Instagram and TikTok. It goes along the lines of Yves Saint Laurent who wanted to give women a wardrobe who makes them feel confident. You do not need to think too much, many pieces can be worn together. Yes, it may not be the most innovative thing but I enjoyed it – especially because of the references to the 1960s Yves Saint Laurent designs and what they stood for: Female empowerment without being “too much in your face” – like some other labels currently try to do with slogans. (I am not mentioning any names here but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about…)

From the research I did online, I saw that his collection polarized – some love it and some really hate claiming that it would be easy for Zara, Massimo Dutti, Shein to copy.

What do you think? Did you enjoy this collection? Do you think Vaccarello is successful with his interpretation of the archives or is it a “watered-down”-version of the Yves Saint Laurent classics for you? Is this the YSL of the future? Let me know in the comments below, I look forward to your views and to discussing this!


Footnotes

[1] The Business of Fashion 2023a.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] The Business of Fashion 2023b.

[5] Harper’s Bazaar 2023, The Business of Fashion 2023b.

[6] Harper’s Bazaar 2023.

[7] Musée Yves Saint Laurent 2023a.

[8] Vogue Runway YSL SS 2024.

[9] ibid.

[10] Musée Yves Saint Laurent 2023b.

[11] Harper’s Bazaar Australia 2023, Vogue France 2023.

[12] ibid.

[13] Musée Yves Saint Laurent 2023c.

See Also
Yves Saint Laurents India How a Country the Designer Never Visited Served as a Source of Inspiration

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

Sources

British Vogue, The Designers That Shaped Yves Saint Laurent Through The Decades, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Harper’s Bazaar, Anthony Vaccarello Confirmed as Saint Laurent Creative Director, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Now that is how you do ‘quiet luxury’, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent a, Premiere Saharienne, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent b, Premier Jumpsuit,  last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent c, Premieres Transparences, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

The Business of Fashion a, Anthony Vacarello, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

The Business of Fashion b, Vaccarello to Replace Slimane at YSL Says Source, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Vogue Runway, Spring 2024 Ready-to-Wear Saint Laurent, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Vogue France, 5 Things to Know about the Saint Laurent by Anthony Vacarello Spring/Summer 2024 Show, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

YSL, Women’s Summer 2024 Fashion Show, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

YSL Instagram Account, last accessed on October 2023.

YSL YouTube Account, Saint Laurent – Women’s Summer 2024 Show, last accessed on 5 October 2023.

Picture Sources Title Image

YSL Instagram Account.


Disclaimer

All information as of the date of publishing. Written based on the above-mentioned sources and from the personal point of view of Liz Steiger. No fees were received by the organisations or people mentioned above.


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