It’s pretty certain (total understatement here) that what I’m about to say wasn’t anywhere near Anthony Vaccarello’s mind when he was designing his new men’s Saint Laurent collection, but by look six I was back in Paris on my very first trip to the city in the spring of 1988: a penniless student who pressed his face up against the windows of just about every boutique the length and breadth of the Avenue Montaigne. (Other memories of that trip: going clubbing, then walking miles—excuse me, kilometres—back to a grotty, disgusting 1 star hotel in the then unglamorous 9eme, the memory of which serves as a reminder that there is a reason there are no zero star hotels.)
What set off this Proustian-like reminiscing? The sharp and confident way Vaccarello riffs on the ’80s here, grasping that the best way to reimagine those years is through the earlier decades that hung over them stylistically. The ’80s were very often a cooler-than-thou sampling of the 1950s (bomber jackets and beat-up denim) and the 1960s (the precision of lean, snappy Mod/garage band suiting) souped up with some New Wave attitude. (As in: right out of famed NYC nightclub Danceteria as much as the handsome anti-heroes of La Nouvelle Vague, both of which Vaccarello seemed to reference here.) Yet despite the decade-ism, his trick is to play the cards of historical reference with a winning hand; the past is only drawn on to make clothes designed for the present.
In translation, that means the following: There are plenty of perfect close-fit zip-up leather jackets, some seamed and grooved as shiny and beguiling as any unplayed vinyl 7-inch you’re dying to hear, others aged to look better than any vintage find you’d ever score. Those are often worn with straight-cut black jeans or his new fluid-yet-slim pants, both of whose hems race towards the ankles. Newer still, Vaccarello offers up tapering, zippered leather track pants, more Kraftwerk than workout. Elsewhere, there’s a strong outerwear statement: Cut with equal swagger and skinniness, the coats’ lapels are pinned with badges and brooches that have the declarative flourish of an exclamation mark.
There’s even (though excuse me, this might be my nostalgia playing tricks on me) sly, witty winks to the Pompidou Centre, which opened in 1977 just as punk arrived to smash up the system, and which 11 years later I stood in front of, slack-jawed in wonder. The Pompidou’s postmodernist primary colored exoskeleton is reminiscent of the red/yellow/blue lines which Vaccarello runs down a scarf, or mottled and morphed into some particularly good sweaters and cardigans patterned with an au courant ’80s graphic abstraction. The latter are just some of the many terrific knits on offer here. When the cozy glow of nostalgia fades—and let’s be honest, it needs to; life is at its best when it’s lived forward—they’ll offer a far better way to keep warm many months from now.