Review of Saint Laurent

Spring 2022 Men's Fashion Show

Review of Saint Laurent Spring 2022 Men’s Fashion Show

A Mirror Sculpture Reflects the Current World and A Poetic Fashion Crafts for Youths of Tomorrow

By Long Nguyen

Isola la Certosa is an island in the Venetian lagoon northeast of the city, not far from the Venice Lido. The designer Rick Owens had been staging his men’s and women’s show along the actual beach with many racks for models to make the outfit changes. But, at the island, the designer Anthony Vaccarello, the creative director of Saint Laurent, opted for an artistic statement rather than a staging stark natural backdrop of seawater, mist, and a bit of faux fog as in Owens’ case.

In the case for Saint Laurent’s men’s spring 2022 live-streamed show broadcasted from the small island, Vaccarello commissioned the American and Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken a site-specific mirror sculpture in concomitance with the Biennale of Architecture. The sculpture, a synthesis of interactive art/architecture, will be gifted to the city of Venice and will remain open to the public until the end of July with additional programming of performances and conversations around the subject of ‘What is the Future?’ 

Saint Laurent’s cult iconography always combined creative disciplines across art and fashion. Through these collaborations, I want to merge different fields’ artistic visions in unique artwork.

– Anthony Vaccarello said of this art installation project in Venice to show his men’s spring collection off the calendar 

The Aitken sculpture – Green Lens – honors the artist’s multi-disciplinary approaches and a platform to celebrate the creative intersections of the Saint Laurent brand co-opting with artists in diverse fields in extending the reach of the house’s fashion message and products. 

“Green Lens is a living artwork. It is both an artwork installation and a stage. It’s like a lighthouse that one can journey to and have a very personal experience, while it also transmits light, ideas, and questions. A focal point that allows all of us to share our ideas and visions for the future post-Covid… a celebration and inquiry into the future,” Aitken said of his sculpture installation. 

The idea of an experiential artwork reflecting on the environment surrounding the Isola della Certosa merges effortlessly with the current zeitgeist of climate change concerns among youth viewing fashion brand’s values. 

As the city of Venice, the fragility of the world is under threat of the rising sea due to global warming, representing the concerns among young people about the environmental damage of fashion and the rise of circular and recycling economy. Here, all of the materials and equipment are rented and reused for other purposes. In addition, the brand is supporting the reforestation of the island and wall structures. 

Doug Aitken is an American artist from Redondo Beach, California, whose work defies easy categorization, ranging from photography, sculpture, architecture, films, multi-channel installations, and live performances. 

Aitken’s other mirror installation was the 2017 ‘Mirage.’ That site-specific sculpture took the shape of a classic one-story suburban ranch-style home covered in mirrors inside and outside. Set in the middle of the Southern California desert near the San Jacinto mountain range overlooking Palm Springs, Mirage was an architectural installation made to reflect the dreams and aspirations of the American West. 

Aitken repeated this site-specific project in Mirage-Detroit inside the city’s State Savings Bank building in September 2018 and then in Mirage-Gstaad in the Swiss Alps in September 2020. These Aitken installations serve as reflections of the world around it without any meanings or, as the artist said at the time – ‘drain it of narrative, drain it of history – take all the texture, surface, history.’ Then and now, the artwork intentions remain on the same plane – that of self-reflection and a search for meanings. 

There was a flow between the old buildings and the Aitken sculpture installation with living plants inside. The models cross from one world into another in a seamless merger of live experiential art installation and fashion. 

Aside from the art-architecture axis, Vaccarello’s signature Saint Laurent’s menswear staples are all present – the crop single breast jacket and slim pleated pantsuit, the poet shirt and fitted pants, the oversized blouson and black jeans, and of course the black leather biker and cuff black wool pants – all paired with extreme sharp-pointed booties or black lace-up platform heel leather boots. 

There is a softness to this show, effortless in a way and much lighter in spirit, just like the way the winds blow off the ground the mustard silk ruffle neck blouse-coat or the sheer aqua chiffon as the models navigated around the mirror stands of the Aitken sculpture. 

The collection does not feel forceful. The designer is now comfortable with his command of the vernacular and the aesthetic of what men’s fashion is at Saint Laurent. Anything aside from this non-challance approach of this Spring 2022 show is unnecessary. Vaccarello no longer has to prove a point, at least here. And, this ease in the mind clearly shows characters of the different looks all within the same feel. 

Colors render homage to the YSL heritage with the historic aqua, purple and blue that were the colors of many of the most substantial Yves Saint Laurent collections. The founder believed that color accounted for two of the five senses – sight and touch. 

Here in this spring collection, the YSL color foundation is subtle and pervasive, from the light emerald chiffon poet blouse and the purple two pleats leather pants to the all purple silk satin double breast pleat pantsuit and a purple shirt and the simple patch pocket military shirt and matching pant worn as a shirt suit. But there are earth colors here in a sand light yellow jacquard silk blouse with ruffle collar or a simple light brown shirt and black jeans. 

Tailoring comes in two varieties – the lean shape of a black one-button broad shoulder fitted black wool, black velvet or black jacquard jacket with a black two pleats cigarette pants or the slender wide shoulder fitted double breast six buttons jacket in grey plaids paired with a black tank top and skinny black jeans or a black pantsuit. 

Then, several versions of the cropped jacket pantsuits have surfaced in past seasons – like the black tweed for Spring 2021, a black sparkling single breast for Spring 2020, or a black fitted cropped tuxedo jacket for Fall 2017. These versions of the crop single breast jacket, either worn with matching pants or fitted jeans, are a new signature Saint Laurent men’s silhouette in the future. 

The collection veers more towards the commercial, even with the sheer black lace shirt and skinny black pants or ecru cotton puff sleeve shirt and leather pants. The heritage at YSL has never been about avant-garde and outrageous clothes. Instead, take, for example, the pantsuit in the 1960s for women where the founder intended for as many as possible women to buy and wear them to achieve a sartorial revolution for women’s equality. But it was never just commerce without a sense of new adventures, the kind of soft power deployment seen here with poet blouses and an occasional grand entrance black or mustard giant cape shirt. 

However, the interconnectedness of art and fashion is stressed here with this extensive stage set. It is refreshing to see Vaccarello let his design and the resulting clothes speak for themselves. There are no ‘art’ elements hand-painted or printed, or decorated on any of the garments shown in the live stream show. That is because the clothes acquire their point of view and thus do not require any additional aids.