It was the moment many were waiting for as Anthony Vaccarello ended the first day of Paris Fashion Week with his debut collection for Saint Laurent. How would he pick up from Hedi Slimane's decidedly rock and roll, grunge glamour aesthetic? Would he bring back a little more 'Yves' to the French fashion house? Well, there was no escaping the huge neon letters suspended from a blue, white and red crane as the audience entered the venue, a former monastery, later a military headquarters and soon to become the new Saint Laurent HQ. With the iconic YSL lettering emblazoned overhead it was evident that this was a turning point as Vaccarello ushered in a new era for the brand, and from his first look we knew it would have his signature, sexy stamp all over it. As French fashion doyennes Jane Birkin and her daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon watched from the front row, the show opened with a leather, black puff-ball sleeved mini dress with a plunging neck line and cinched waist. Finding inspiration in the YSL '80s archives, new Creative Director Vaccarello explained that he believed that period of the brand was what the coolest girls now are seeking out in vintage stores. He was particularly inspired by a voluminous sleeved dress from 1982, but the designer told Vogue.com before the show: "I don’t want to repeat the things [Yves] has done. It’s not about the garments, my idea of YSL lies in the attitude and how we handle things. There are fabrics like leather, vinyl, velvet, lace, but then they’re put on a girl of today."
And there was a whole lot of leather indeed. From biker jackets and leather dresses, cigarette pants to patent coats, leather prevailed, alongside metallics and plenty of sheer lace and mesh. Silhouettes were often off-the-shoulder and asymmetric as Vaccarello showcased his trademark body-con, ultra-sexy, high octane vision seen previously in collections for his eponymous label and Versus Versace. This was a very wearable, safe collection with more than a nod to YSL tradition with an update of Le Smoking suit and modern takes on '80s cocktail dresses, but some critics may have hoped for a riskier debut from the 34-year-old Belgian designer. Following the commercial success of Slimane's stint at Saint Laurent, Vaccarello has big boots to fill, but he stepped up to the challenge with an impressive debut. Not only was it a pleasure to see those three letters again, from the neon sign to actually forming the heel on a pair of stilettos, but it was also a great pleasure to see a more diverse cast than the models Hedi frequently worked with. Binx Walton, Edie Campbell, Freja Beha, Malaika Firth, Anja Rubik and Mica Arganaraz were just some of the big names who walked in the show. Vaccarello told Vogue: "I don’t like to say that it’s white, black. It is just the world today... It’s just natural to have those women, who are amazing, no matter where they’re from."