In an exclusive reveal to only six publications around the world, including The National, Saint Laurent's new creative director Anthony Vaccarello has announced his debut advertising campaign for the French brand.
Vaccarello was named the new head in April this year, following the abrupt departure of his predecessor Hedi Slimane. With rumours already swirling of an imminent walkout, when Slimane left just after his women’s FW16 show, Vaccarello was named as successor a mere three days later, suggesting he was already lined up for the role.
Born in Belgium, Vaccarello first started under Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi before setting up his own label in 2011. 2015 saw his appointment by Donetella Versace to head up Versus Versace – the young diffusion line of Versace.
Vaccarello's style is youthful, sensual womenswear, favouring ramped-up glamour. His dresses are often seen draped on models, possibly the only women able to wear his unforgiving designs. Known for figure-skimming looks, he is, as Eric Wilson of The New York Times put it, "a designer who demands clavicle perfection of his clients".
Now tasked with taking over from Slimane, he is left with some big shoes to fill. Slimane’s four years at the house, though mired in controversy, saw huge success.
Slimane implemented a rebranding of the fashion house as he stripped away the old and imposed a new way of thinking. Embarking on a self-titled “reform project”, he unceremoniously ditched a third of the company name, renaming it Saint Laurent Paris. Next he decamped the design studio to Los Angeles, and then ignored his traditional customers to instead focus on the cool, young music crowd.
He reinstated the haute couture line – against the express wishes of the founder – and even snubbed Paris for Los Angeles for one of his runway shows. His clothes divided critics, who struggled to understand the luxury behind leather micro skirts and baggy jumpers, while his collections drew criticism for looking cheap and being too androgynous.
Yet customers were rapturous in their support, and celebrities, musicians and models clamoured for his pieces. Collections flew off the shelves, and at a time when other luxury labels struggled with global slowdown, Slimane doubled sales to more than US$1 billion (Dh3.6bn).
So with expectations running high, Vaccarello’s new campaign takes an interesting turn. Faced with so much pressure, one would expect him to reveal the new collection. Instead he keeps us guessing, showing nothing but the unadorned faces of 15 unknown models – these are portraits of youth, shot in sparse black and white, overlaid with the company logo.
It would seem that Vaccarello is staying true to his roots and aims to appeal to a younger crowd, and like his predecessor, will focus on the artistic, hip set. Will he retain the core pieces of Saint Laurent, or will he venture out into a new direction? Perhaps we will not know until his first collections hit the runway in Paris later this year. However, if these new images are a taste of the journey to come, then perhaps it may be worth the wait.