An oasis of emotion glowed among the dunes of the Agafay Desert during the SAINT LAURENT Spring Summer 23 show.

It must be a million years since I last reviewed a show, but I am making a dutiful exception on this occasion.

Why? Because last Friday in Morocco, I – and everyone present – was lucky enough to attend one of the most exciting shows ever seen so far. And I’m not just saying that: the energy that we felt in that deserted corner of the Agafay Desert was one of a kind.

It is impossible to rank Anthony Vaccarello’s shows and there wouldn’t be any point in doing so anyway. We have become accustomed to big things from him, special things that generate huge expectations every time. And that is a privilege for a designer.

In this latest Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2023 collection, everything is perfectly in harmony: the maison’s past and the brand’s present, the conversation between the masculine and feminine, the dialogue between France and Morocco, Paris and Marrakesh, Yves and Anthony.

If, according to Catholic narrative, woman was created from man’s rib, in this case it is the other way round. The new menswear collection created by Vaccarello is developed from his last womenswear collection, presented in Paris last February. Yet it never feels like a derivative repeat, nor does it indulge in all too obvious references. The image of the woman is flawlessly reflected in that of the man.

Drawn back hair, austere faces, large dark glasses, elongated bodies cinched at the waist, wide shoulders and fluttering trousers, shirts and overgarments.
An aesthetic summary of 50 years of decidedly male fashion, with a typical French touch, condensed into 50 looks.

The show was arranged concentrically. The models circled a round pool of water, an oasis that, unbeknown to us, hid a huge round metal installation designed by artist Es Devlin together with Anthony Vaccarello.

While in the background the fiery sun slowly set behind the desert dunes, a circle emerged from the water, rising up on itself as the music intensified, until it was standing vertically and casting light all around it. And then there was the wind, and the sand, and the palpable emotion of the spectators.

It is no easy task to convey the sensation that we all felt in that intensely moving moment. The “drama” aspect is an essential component in any Vaccarello show, yet here the mood was different. It didn’t feel as though we were attending yet another show, in yet another unusual location, this time the desert. It felt more like attending a piece of modern theatre, a contemporary art performance, which involved and challenged each and every one of its spectators. Anthony appeared for the finale, just a few steps, nothing more. Many of us were in tears, all of us were on our feet.

Perhaps it was the long journey through the desert to get there, perhaps it was the vivid colours of the Moroccan landscape, the beauty of a cultured fashion collection that speaks to the head as well as the eyes… but the impression we all had is that we weren’t just watching a show. It was something else.

And not just one of the many, albeit heartfelt, tributes to the genius of the late designer, but something more similar to a declaration of love that Anthony had put together for his public, for the history of Saint Laurent, and for Yves.

Text: Antonio Moscogiuri