Saint Laurent Fall-Winter 2024: The Most Important Suits of the Year

Courtesy of Saint Laurent

This is an edition of the newsletter Show Notes, in which Samuel Hine reports from the front row of the global fashion week circuit. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

In a season full of suits, Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello got the last word.

Over the past two months, menswear’s leading designers have proposed countless spins on the suit. Tailoring has made for some of the season’s standout moments, dressing Pharrell’s Wild West dandy at Louis Vuitton, and Prada’s yearning corporate warriors. There was no limit to shape, size, or sensibility. Come this winter, there will be suits in stores inspired by the 1920s (Ferragamo), the 1990s (Gucci), and the future (Rick Owens), all of which feel perfectly wearable today. After years of safe and commercial suits on runways, designers are now expressing their most radical and compelling ideas through tailoring.

<cite class="credit">All images courtesy of Saint Laurent</cite>
All images courtesy of Saint Laurent

And it was Vaccarello who delivered what might be the defining statement for this moment in men’s style. The YSL designer is responsible for some of the most incredible menswear spectacles in recent years, and on Tuesday night he raised his own extremely high bar, shutting down Paris Fashion Week with a sublime parade of outstanding tailoring. Held in the Pinault Collection art museum under the soaring dome of the former Bourse de Commerce, it was, fittingly, the final major men’s show of the Fall-Winter 2024 season.

Backstage, Vaccarello explained that the timing was coincidental. Kering boss François-Henri Pinault lent him the space, and this was the date it was available in between exhibitions. But it was a remarkable coda that began as a clear homage to the style of Yves Saint Laurent himself. In a long gray flannel double-breasted suit, with a starched white shirt and dark tie, the bespectacled lead model was a spitting image of the boy genius of French fashion as he looked in the 1970s, and as he strolled around the rotunda, a ripple of recognition from the 100-some guests followed him. (YSL men’s shows are both intimate and epic in scale.)

Made in heavy flannels, with nipped waists and full trousers, the suits looked like they could have been pulled out of the YSL archive hours before. But this Yves Saint Laurent cosplay didn’t look at all dated. Mr. Saint Laurent’s personal style, which turned the double-breasted blazer and high-collar shirt into emblems of creative genius, was timeless. And today, the big, pleated, thinly-cuffed trousers he wore feel fresh, especially from a house like Saint Laurent that is synonymous with razor-sharp skinny cuts. Backstage, describing his intent this season, Vaccarello used the phrase “classicism to the maximum.”

But the real twist came in the second half, when Vaccarello’s homage to Mr. Saint Laurent’s became a tribute to his design legacy. These suits were made not with traditional tailoring but with soft dressmaking—or flou—techniques. The former is about structure, the latter about fluidity and draping. Saint Laurent is famous for both, and Vaccarello’s elegant idea was to reconcile the two disciplines in one garment, using floaty silk crêpe fabric and removing all of the structure besides the padded shoulder. “At Saint Laurent we always say that the silhouettes start with the shoulder, so I started with that,” the designer said. On the blazers, the silk draped in shimmery waterfalls from the shoulders, bounding and shifting as the models moved. The languid trousers, totally unlined in matching shades of cinnamon, rose, chocolate, orchid, and peach rippled with an impeccable flow. This was the suit reduced to its essence, a beautiful and novel idea within the most traditional forms of menswear.

“I wanted no tricks in this collection,” said Vaccarello, explaining the rigorous clarity on the runway, which ultimately included some 30 suits and not much else—not even any knitwear, leather accessories, or bags. This is Vaccarello’s way of taking a big swing: he offers a highly edited idea, and repeats it over and over until you leave with a clear shape in your mind. All eyes were on the silhouette, which Vaccarello boldly emphasized with (in a first) chunky square-toed derbies and several Patrick Bateman-ish rubberized caban coats. He said he noticed an American Psycho resonance when he put the show lineup together. “Which I love,” he said. “It looks normal, but you have a twist.”

Vaccarello called it his most wearable collection in recent years. But it also struck me that the poetic flou suits spoke to a specific fantasy that resonates with men right now, the idea that your outfit can reveal more about you than it conceals. That you can play by the masculine rules of classic menswear while embodying a sense of creativity, like Mr. Saint Laurent did.

Vaccarello told me that this is exactly what his customers—the most prominent of which (Cillian Murphy et al.) will be hitting the Oscars red carpet in a few days time—want. “They’re looking for these kinds of clothes,” he said. “When we talk and are doing something special, even if they look very masculine, they don’t want to look like the stereotype of masculinity. That’s what this collection is about.”

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Originally Appeared on GQ