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A five-point guide to Saint Laurent’s new creative director

Italian-Belgian and formerly of Fendi and Versus, here’s your cheatsheet to Anthony Vaccarello

After months of rumours, it’s finally been confirmed: Anthony Vaccarello will be replacing Hedi Slimane as creative director of Saint Laurent. Until yesterday, the Brussels-born designer sat at the helm of his own eponymous label and Versus Versace respectively but will now be focussing solely on his new role. Vaccarello might have garnered a reputation for his body-conscious women’s apparel, but his work is acclaimed for its construction as much as it is for its flesh-flashing credentials. Thanks to this, he’s been likened by critics – namely The Independent’s fashion editor Alexander Fury – to Gianni Versace, in his celebration of women and the female form. 

Kering’s decision to put Vaccarello behind the wheel at one of fashion’s most prestigious labels sees the Belgian-Italian in his biggest role yet. Unlike Slimane who had headed up Dior Homme and Yves Saint Laurent’s men’s collection before his appointment at the top of SL, this is the first time Vaccarello will have a platform of this magnitude. In light of his appointment, check out our need-to-know guide.

BACK TO THE START

Unlike the famed Antwerp Six and their younger comrade Martin Margiela who all studied at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Vaccarello trained at La Cambre – a Brussels-based design school. Studying sculpture rather than design, it’s here he learned how to construct garments in 3D form, on the body – a method he still employs a decade later. And it was his 2006 graduate collection which put him instantly on the map: winning top honours at Hyères Festival, a prize chosen by the legendary Ann Demeulemeester. This entirely leather collection, inspired by the porn star La Cicciolina, gained the designer both critical attention and a position designing fur at Fendi.

HE WORKED AT FENDI BEFORE STARTING HIS OWN LINE

Now working at Fendi, Vaccarello found himself under the watchful eye of industry godfather Karl Lagerfeld. Here, he learned to consider the business side of fashion, as well as the level of collaboration involved in the success of a global brand. Fendi, based in Rome, was Vaccarello’s home for two years and it was where he eventually rose to become senior designer on the company’s fur line before moving to Paris in January 2009 to premier his first ever eponymous collection. This presentation was shown in the store Maria Luisa, and featured five leather-organza miniskirts which received critical acclaim. Fresh model-slash-actress Lou Doillon fell in love with the collection, and by AW10 was the face of the brand.

HE PUTS INTELLIGENCE INTO SEX APPEAL

Vaccarello’s aesthetic is a highly considered balance of uncluttered minimalism and high-octane sex appeal. Unusual in their mix, the designer credits his Italian-Belgian heritage as the source of these two extremes. Belgian in construction – colder, technical, clinical – but Italian in spirit, he told Alexander Fury that “at La Cambre it was always strange, when I was making a dress everyone was saying ‘Oh, it’s an Italian dress!’ And when I was working at Fendi, everyone said ‘Oh it’s so cold, it’s so Belgian!’” His work has been the source of much controversy over just how revealing it really is, with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Harper’s Bazaar cover, or Gisele and Anja Rubik’s flank-bearing leather and chainmail Met Ball dresses. But his flesh-flashing nature takes skill and intelligence – his garments don’t stay in place by chance but by technical ability.

HE’S DONATELLA’S PROTÉGÉ

Vaccarello, then, is the perfect fit for Versus Versace – the line started by Gianni Versace in 1989, to channel a more youthful energy out of the Versace empire. With his predecessors among the ranks of Christopher Kane and J.W. Anderson, Vaccarello has helmed the house’s sister brand to much success for the past four seasons, in full support from Donatella. The pair have a close relationship, and Donatella has described Vaccarello as her protégé, and it’s his sleek-rock’n’roll inspired aesthetic that works for the Versus customer. He’s also adored by the model set too – his first show for his own line starring Karlie Kloss – with casts of the ‘new supers’ dotted throughout his shows ever since.

HE HAS SIMILARITIES WITH SLIMANE, BUT ALSO DIFFERENCES

Razor-sharp silhouettes, a dark colour palette, and a youthful sex appeal are traits found in both Slimane and Vaccarello’s work. The former approach to fashion however, is marked by its continued reference to musical subculture, while the latter’s is distinguishable for its sensuality and its celebration of the female form. Following on from Slimane’s radical overall of the brand, it will be interesting to see how Vaccarello attempts to tackle the mammoth task of Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic vision into the present day.