The Moroccan desert of Agafay serves as the backdrop for Saint Laurent’s latest men’s collection
Marrakech was a place of spiritual escape and inspiration for Yves Saint Laurent during his lifetime. Last weekend, Saint Laurent’s current creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, returned to Morocco for an impressive S/S 2023 menswear show held in the Agafay desert.
Morocco, particularly the ancient desert city of Marrakech, was a place of particular resonance for the late Yves Saint Laurent. During his life, the designer – himself born in neighboring Algeria – spent long periods in the country, traveling there for the first time in 1966 with his partner Pierre Bergé. They stayed at La Mamounia, then dilapidated, now one of the city’s most luxurious residences, beginning a love affair that would last until Saint Laurent’s death in 2008. Waking up in Morocco this first day, Bergé wrote: “the birds were singing, the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas blocked the horizon, and the scent of jasmine rose to our room. We will never forget this morning, because in a way it decided our fate.
Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello spring-summer 2023 men’s fashion in Morocco
Indeed, Marrakech would become the home of Saint Laurent’s spiritual second home, with the couple buying first Dar el-Hanch, a small house in the Medina, and later Sar Es Saada, near the blue-walled Majorelle Garden (c t was then the 1970s, when an influx of gypsies arrived in the city from all over the world). Marrakech began to infiltrate the collections of the house; Saint Laurent is increasingly inspired by the cuts of traditional Moroccan dress and the colors of its landscapes. “Once I became sensitive to light and color, I mostly noticed light on colors… at every street corner in Marrakech, you meet surprisingly lively groups of men and women,” he said.
Last weekend – half a century later – Saint Laurent’s current creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, hosted a return to Marrakech, inviting attendees to discover his S/S 2023 menswear collection during a special fashion show (in the footsteps of Saint Laurent, guests stayed at the now-transformed La Mamounia, while also being invited to discover the various monuments from the designer’s era in Marrakech during their stay). Set in the Agafay desert, just outside the city, it was a dramatic spectacle worthy of Vaccarello’s tenure at home – in Paris, his womenswear shows take place in front of the Eiffel Tower, often programmed for the monument to burst into flashing lights at its finale.
In the Moroccan desert, a different monolithic form provided an equally dramatic finale – a vast disc created by London-based artist and designer Es Devlin, which rose from the ground as the show ended, emitting clouds of smoke on the circular outer track (the track itself circulated a pool of water, like a desert mirage). The house noted that the show’s setting referenced Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel The sheltered sky; ‘a luminous, ring-shaped oasis amidst the vast and arid unknown.’ In Bowles’ own words: “We regard life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really… How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Maybe twenty. And yet everything seems limitless.
The collection itself referenced what Vaccarello called an “elegant dissolution” of masculine and feminine codes, which he linked to the city of Marrakech, and Saint Laurent’s own inspirations from the city. The tuxedo, an intrinsic element of the Saint Laurent wardrobe, is reinterpreted throughout the collection, “imbued with possibilities”. He said he took inspiration from his womenswear collection earlier this year: pointed and wide off the shoulder, single or double breasted, shapes also riffed in boxy outerwear. True to the decor, the silhouette was shady: diaphanous shirts open to navy, an elegant jacket with a shawl collar and matching silk trousers, tops crossed over the chest or tied at the neck with a pussy bow.
But there was also a more personal element for Vaccarello, a look back not only at the rich history of the house, but also at his own life and the clothes he wore as a student in Belgium. “That’s how I dressed in 2000,” he said of the collection’s elongated fit, pants that were high in the waist and wide in the leg. ‘It was a look that I loved, and I wanted to recreate that spirit; I missed it. §