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saint laurent ss23 menswear
Courtesy of Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent’s latest collection emerges under the Eye of Sauron

On the dunes of the Agafay desert, Anthony Vaccarello’s SS23 menswear collection was like a fashion mirage

The decision to go off-schedule was, for many designers, a chance to unshackle themselves from the seasonal demands of the fashion calendar. But as brands find themselves in competition not only with each other, but the news cycle in general, it seems to have put a new focus on the destination show. From Balenciaga, to Gucci, to Jacquemus, and Alexander McQueen, traditional runways have increasingly been replaced by high-drama, blockbuster extravaganzas staged in Hawaii, New York, and Abruzzo. 

Last weekend, Saint Laurent flew hundreds of editors out to the foothills of Marrakech, forging a fashion week of its own. That Anthony Vaccarello should choose the Agafay desert for his SS23 menswear collection was for reasons beyond wow-factor, though – home to both the Musée Yves Saint Laurent and its founder’s palatial Villa Oasis, Marrakech and Saint Laurent share a time-worn history. And, as a place of refuge for Yves Saint Laurent (the man) Vacarello’s usual rakish tailoring was softened at the edges with languid pussy bow blouses, spindly scarves, and capes, while silken boiler suits had been tied at the hip with an air of absolute indolence. There were, of course, sharpened shoulders, deep-necked Le Smokings, and patent leather boots, but in and amongst wind-battered dunes, these took on a louche stride – much like the brand’s SS21 womenswear show, also filmed in the sandbanks of North Africa. 

Though it would have been easy to approach this collection with a tourist’s gaze – all djellabas, Moroccan tiling, and fatigued linens – Vaccarello travelled through his adolescence spent as an indie kid on Antwerp’s fashion scene. As such, the 50 looks ran the gamut of androgenous, wasp-waisted tailoring, satin trench coats, gamine pyjama suits, hulking fur jackets, and velvet flares – all of which had been cut from a palette of black, cream, powdery pink, and plum, doubling-down on the chic, rich bitch that emerged in Saint Laurent’s AW22 womenswear collection. The show-stopper, however, appeared in the form of an LED installation designed by Es Devlin – inspired by Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky – rising up from a circular lagoon to illuminate the unknown like the Eye of Sauron.