Paris-based fashion house Yves Saint Laurent brought its spring and summer 2020 men’s runway collection to Southern California Thursday night — Malibu’s Paradise Cove, specifically — where it unspooled at sunset on a beach boardwalk with a deep bench of celebrities (Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Salma Hayek Pinault, Laura Dern, Lakeith Stanfield and Keanu Reeves among them) seated just feet from the water’s edge.
Creative director Anthony Vaccarello chose the narrow strip of SoCal beach as a stand-in for Marrakesh, presenting a collection that pulled inspiration from Serge Gainsbourg and Mick Jagger — the show notes specifically pointed to the Rolling Stones’ 1975 concert tour as a reference point for colors and detail — and keyed into a bohemian-meets-British-rocker vibe.
Colorwise, the spring and summer 2020 collection rarely departed from basic black (or goes-with-anything-black, take your pick), with a few all-white looks and even fewer pops of color. Standouts in the last category include a burgundy dégradé western-inspired shirt and a red silk varsity marching-band jacket.
The skinny-legged rocker aesthetic, with its form-fitting leather or velvet trousers, Peter Pan collars, skinny ties and marching-band jackets, has long been a part of the house aesthetic, and pieces that followed on this theme included the sparkly, crystal-studded riffs on the bomber jacket and varsity jacket silhouettes, cropped vests and suits shot through with Lurex pinstripes. Lots of looks were accessorized with western-style straw hats that created a faintly cowboy vibe.
However, it was the bohemian side of the equation that felt like a departure for the brand — a looser, more free-flowing silhouette that came by way of kimono-style jackets, draped tunics and gauzy shirts knotted at the waist. Other manifestations of laid-back luxe included duster-length velvet vests, slouchy sweaters, fringed velvet capes and faded denim cutoffs (some with all-over embellishments). Taken altogether it felt light-years — not months — away from the strong-shouldered geometry of the spring and summer 2020 women’s collection Vaccarello presented in Paris in February.
But the biggest shift in silhouette — literally and figuratively — came from the waist down in the form of harem pants, aka parachute pants (or, for those of a certain age, Hammer pants); voluminous, billowy-legged trousers in a range of fabrications including hammered silk and sparkly Lurex, some gathered in at the ankle, others swishing and swaying like paired skirts across the sandy boardwalk with every step. Most were accessorized with wide leather belts with fist-sized circular buckles.
Gender fluidity has been gaining traction on the women’s ready-to-wear runways for a few seasons now (see the spring and summer 2019 collections from Givenchy and Hermès), and the Mick Jagger-goes-to-Marrakesh inspiration of this collection afforded Vaccarello the perfect opportunity to explore gender fluidity in a way that keys organically into the label’s DNA.
Speaking of brand DNA, given that house founder Yves Saint Laurent had a deep personal connection to — and a home in — the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, it might seem like a missed opportunity not to stage the show there. But, as the final footfalls faded from the runway and the full breadth of the collection and its influences was in the rear-view mirror, it sort of made sense. The West — California in particular — has always been a beacon for the difficult-to-define, the other, the different, the square pegs chafing from round-hole society. If your jam is dressing like Jimi Hendrix and MC Hammer — at the same time — or you take your style cues from Matthew McConaughey’s character in the 2019 film “The Beach Bum,” this is the coast for you.
By staging his spring and summer 2020 menswear show literally as close as possible to the western edge of the contiguous United States — in a place called Paradise Cove, no less — Vaccarello chose the symbolic home of the rocker/bohemian/gender-fluid cowboy, the rare place where it’s possible to be your true self — without having to be Mick Jagger first.