Long, tall, lean, chic. Those were the words that spontaneously shot to mind while Anthony Vaccarello was sending out a menswear collection that swept away the gendering of clothes with every passing flick of its floor-grazing coat-tails.

At Saint Laurent, it was instantly very clear: Vaccarello has been building on the dramatically attenuated silhouettes that have been striding out at his women’s collections recently, and their transference into menswear is now complete. “I really want them to be almost one person,” he said. “So women could be the men, and the men could be the women. No difference. I want more and more to put them at the same level. No distinction.”

While the audience reclined on a circular banquette, sipping Champagne at the perimeter of a beige center-stage—this much was almost pure Tom Ford for Saint Laurent era decadence—it was equally apparent that Vaccarello was speaking about his idea of what drop-dead elegance means to people of his own generation. In material terms, that translates to dark, vertical, narrow coats; black leather and velvet; necks exaggeratedly tied in flourishing bows or sunk funnel-necks; the cool, tailored swagger of Smoking jackets, the cache-coeur drape of tops and chest-revealing cowl-front silk shirts that plunge into wrapped cummerbunds.

Whereas what was for “her” was pioneeringly co-opted from “him” by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s and ’70s, now Vaccarello has reversed the process in the 2020s. Of course, the codes of the house offer endless gifts to play with on the menswear scale: patent block heels, adaptations of the pussy-bow see-through chiffon blouse, a hint of the North African draped hood. Vaccarello did all that, with a confidence and conviction that is all his own.

What’s progressive about it is the way he’s pushed past anything that might be categorized as “blurry,” “fluid” or “neutral.” In the bigger scheme of fashion, his contribution is bringing exactly the opposite qualities to rethinking clothes and gender: what Vaccarello deals in is rigor, precision, and a brilliant ability to cut. It was a true Saint Laurent on-brand orchestration, for sure, but a resonantly relevant step forward for the designer too.

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