Yves Saint Laurent created his first Safari jacket, known to most as Saharienne, in 1967 for the collection known as Bambara. The following year, at the height of the 1968 uprisings, that same model of jacket, in a couture version, appeared in the pages of Vogue, achieving enormous success, and, the year after that, the Safari jacket made its appearance in the windows of the Rue de Tournon boutique that became legendary in fashion as Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, perhaps the most important cradle of ready-to-wear as we know it.
From there on, thanks in part to the fact that the designer himself loved to wear them, Safari jackets became a pillar of Saint Laurent’s androgynous aesthetic directly inspired, according to the Musée YSL of Paris, to the World War II Afrika Korps uniforms. Beginning in 1964, however, to the cry of «Nothing is more beautiful than a naked body» the first sheer dress was introduced, which then became in ’68 a completely transparent dress with an ostrich feather belt and then again in ’69, the same as the Safari jacket, a long draped dress of transparent chiffon. The brand’s what we might call ’68 era was certainly on Anthony Vaccarello’s mind for Saint Laurent’s SS24 collection, which was staged recently in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower with the usual, pharaonic layout. But despite the precision with which Vaccarello managed to frame the brand’s silhouette and sublimate its aesthetic, something was missing.
Minus the vast marble pavilion, minus the wonderful music by Sébastien Akchoté-Bozović, which had decidedly more mystical and Egyptian vibes this year, the extreme simplicity of the show’s looks seemed a bit redundant. To Vogue, Vaccarello said: «I wanted to doing almost nothing» thus reacting to the alleged hyper-decoratism of its competitors (referring perhaps to Dior?) certainly revealing very noble intentions but perhaps not realizing the fact that about 38% of the looks, 19 out of 49, were a repetition or variation of a boiler suit or a Safari suit with a big collar and tight pants at the waist-and that’s not counting the times the Safari jacket was paired with a skirt. On the other hand, 24 percent of the looks consisted of a transparent top or dress. It is clear that if it is possible to calculate the percentage amount of how often a certain design recurs on the runway, the collection presented is quite repetitive. But wanting to put the math to one side, all it took was a pair of eyes to realize that the same look was repeating itself again and again – an aesthetically beautiful look, let’s be clear, very much in line with the brand, saleable and practical, but nonetheless proposed too many times to be exciting after the tenth almost identical reappearance. It is a case of talking about a collection that was very beautiful in its icy self-control but needed more editing.
Vaccarello’s understanding of the great Yves’ brand and language, however, is masterful. While sticking to the positions of a severe, desirable minimalism that winks now at the ’70s, now at the ’80s, and so on, Saint Laurent’s garments are desirable, all part of a universe perhaps even more coherent and concise than that originally conceived by the founder who, in October of ’76, famously presented a spring collection of 281 looks whose runway show lasted two titanic hours – a dangerous kind of self-indulgence, which for many remained the first symptom of the overflowing, somewhat decadent excess that put the brand in crisis around the 1990s. And given how the brand’s recent collections, all beautiful, have begun to follow a pattern that becomes more and more predictable season after season, it would perhaps serve to start introducing more inspiring surprises than a pair of cargo pants in a desert-themed collection. Looking at the history of the brand, Vaccarello or whoever should keep in mind the importance of synthesis that Yves himself did not know in the later phase of his career. What he says is beautiful, his language crystal clear – but even the most beautiful song tires if it goes on too long.