MOTY Designer of the Year
Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent
Anthony Vaccarello and I are sitting in his stately office, housed in a 17th-century hôtel particulier in Paris’s Left Bank. Vaccarello has just presented his spring 2023 womenswear collection for Saint Laurent in front of the Eiffel Tower, and today things are so quiet you can hear his French bulldog, Nino, snoring in the next room. Vaccarello’s office is minimally decorated, as if he’s still moving in, with a tidy black desk, a few Pierre Jeanneret chairs, and a small daybed underneath some bookshelves. “It’s peaceful,” he says, sipping from a tiny glass of water. “And very chic.”
Vaccarello, who took over Saint Laurent as the brand’s sixth creative steward (including Mr. Saint Laurent) in 2016, is plenty settled in. Under his design, artistic, and image direction, the brand’s revenues have exploded from $1.07 billion to nearly $2.85 billion. Though YSL won’t share sales breakdowns, Vaccarello says menswear has been a steadily growing part of the business. He notes with some pride that he’s achieved this epic expansion without thinking much about numbers, or paying attention to what’s selling and what’s not. “I have the feeling that fashion became a bit too commercial,” he says. “I mean, being commercial is not a bad word. It’s important to sell, but if you can sell and have a real message or real style, that is a bingo for me.”
One example: He’s eschewed splashy collaborations with other brands and artists, and avoided big marketing stunts of the kind we’ve come to expect from large luxury houses. “I still have that idea of when I did fashion when I was at school; all the brands were so different and so cool and fresh. Now, it’s all about doing the next collab and that kind of thing. I hate it. I find it super boring,” he says.
What Vaccarello does instead is create fashion that resonates and experiences that are genuinely moving. In July, in the middle of the Agafay Desert, a dusty, hour-plus ride outside of Marrakech, he staged his spring 2023 menswear show. Among those in attendance were talented people you wouldn’t quite call “celebs,” like Steve Lacy and Dominic Fike, as well as dozens of other beautiful creatures wearing gauzy pussy-bow blouses; fulsome, flowy trousers; and at least one dark cape that made its wearer look like a Jedi master. As the sun set, a troop of slender models emerged through a spooky mist. The first wore a strong-shouldered tuxedo with no shirt and simple black sandals. Another wore a silky white shirt with a plunging neckline and long black trousers that rippled in the wind. Yet another wore a large faux-fur duster coat, which grazed the tops of glimmering black high-heel boots.