British Vogue’s fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen breaks down the five key takeaways from Saint Laurent’s autumn/winter 2022 collection at Paris Fashion Week.

It was all about the silhouette

The look Anthony Vaccarello chose to open his Saint Laurent collection was season-defining. Stripped of any distraction, it cemented a kind of triangular silhouette exaggerating the human proportion: broad across the shoulder and narrow around the ankle. It was composed of a big, black woollen peacoat borrowed from the classic men’s wardrobe – a native language for Saint Laurent – paired with a contrasting ivory silk flute skirt. That dichotomy became tone-setting for almost every look that followed, creating a clarified collection that distilled the parfum of a moment in time reflective of a desire for the silky floor-length glamour of a seductive evening silhouette juxtaposed by a need not to cover up but to armour up, to self-protect. Vaccarello nailed it.

It was informed by Art Deco

Vaccarello reflected his magnificent silhouette in a spirit that’s been lurking in the shadows this season: Art Deco, a formidable form language that took shape a hundred years ago – in another time of geopolitical turbulence – when an almost futuristic thirst for progress and prosperity manifested in dazzling geometric and streamlined opulence. It was expressed in his shoulders, which looked like something out of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, and his constant conversation between fluid and exaggerated lines. He expressed it with subtle but precise elegance in a masterful long-sleeved, shoulder-padded black dress cut almost like a turtleneck on top before it elongated into a slinky fluted floor-length skirt.

It did wonders with faux fur

In September 2021, Saint Laurent’s parent company Kering – which also owns Gucci, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen – announced it had gone entirely fur-free. Vaccarello approached that decision with vigour, filling in his Art Deco framework with grand fur coats of the faux persuasion, which couldn’t help but link to the 1980s, another era that took its cues from a similar old-world glamour. It was an exercise in just how real fake fur can look these days, and how furriers and their historical contributions to fashion don’t have to go out of business just because their material has changed. Vaccarello’s furs – from floor-sweeping to wrapped, bear-bodied and dramatically trimmed – evoked all the nostalgia tied to our collective memories of fur coats, from fabulous grannies to icons of glamour.

It was one of Vaccarello’s best

Vaccarello, who is mourning the death of his father in mid-February, was visibly moved when he took his bow in the show venue overlooking a glittering Eiffel Tower. He understandably wasn’t taking questions from the press post-show, and in this case, he didn’t need to. With its resolved maturity and powerful lines, this collection so elegantly expressed where Vaccarello – recently a father himself – is at in his career and life. For a designer, who has often expressed himself through a scanty hemline, the decision to change that signature so radically was a brave one, and one that showed that Vaccarello now masters his role and the language of Saint Laurent to a point where he is entirely comfortable – for himself and his audience – doing exactly what he wants.

Glamorous accessories are back

Gilding his Art Deco lily, Vaccarello decorated his silhouettes with stacks of sculptural bracelets like they were Grecian statues and brought back the glamour of a bracelet styled over a cuff. Rather than the oversized statement shoes seen elsewhere this season, he finished off his silhouettes with light, elegant evening sandals and patent pumps with opulent gold buckles.