Saint Laurent’s spring/summer 2018 collection was unveiled underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Tuesday night.

“I want to tell the story of Saint Laurent, of Paris—nothing more deeply than that,” said Anthony Vaccarello, fielding a huge backstage scene after his epic open-air show on a balmy night, with the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the background. Hundreds of spectators—the public and professionals—looked on, held in the awestruck moment. There were legs for miles and glamour as far as the eye could see. Ostrich feathers flew, glitter dresses glinted, duchesse satin bubbled, and boots upon more boots stomped. Vaccarello summed it up, humbly and succinctly: “That girl of Saint Laurent—she wants to have fun,” he said. “She’s not depressed. She wants to enjoy life!”

The resilient human longing for escapism is always welcome when times are tough—and here it was, counterintuitively displayed in splendor on a platform wide and visible enough to cheer a whole city. The set, built out below the Trocadéro, was vast; the ambition of it an inescapable statement. Yves Saint Laurent has always symbolized something more about Paris than simply being a fashion brand: It stands for chic, for eroticism, for a liberal code—a book of dressing that was written by one young designer and his business partner, Pierre Bergé, both French national heroes. For Vaccarello, and for everyone watching, the emotional weight of this show was further freighted by the death, earlier this month, of Bergé.

In circumstances that must have been hugely daunting, Vaccarello passed the test with singular focus and conviction. Without being too obediently or heavily referential, his collection read as a seamless journey, one that that began with the hippie souvenirs of Marrakech and ended in the grand haute couture tradition of Saint Laurent’s atelier in Paris. There were floating, billowy-sleeved silk blouses, gold-coin–dot printed tulle tops, sparkling embroidered sequined dresses, and bravura ostrich feathers, all of it paired with the tiniest of shorts and skirts and an endless march of sensational boots.

The results of Vaccarello’s public exam? There were plenty of references to Saint Laurent’s storied body of work for the experts to mull over. But for a worldwide audience, almost certainly too young to know or care about the history, this was a rare glimpse of fashion with a capital F. It was an extreme, bold statement of leadership and conviction, a bright and brilliant shot of sexuality, provocation, and the promise of all kinds of fun for a new generation. More


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