Anthony Vaccarello added very little to the spare, monolithic architecture of the Neue Nationalgalerie, the setting for his latest itinerant menswear show for Saint Laurent.
He sat his 200 guests on low leather Barcelona stools by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who created the modernist Berlin landmark in 1968; added a travertine floor and some dark curtains for the entrance corridor, and plunked a giant lightbox outside the glass-walled pavilion, supercharging an already dramatic sunset over the German capital.
Vaccarello’s spring collection exuded a similar modernist grandeur, his jackets with monumental shoulders pinned on slender, high-waisted pants that strangled the hips of his young models as they lurched forward on glossy, high-heeled boots with doorstop toe boxes.
It marked the third time the Belgian designer has pilfered ideas from his women’s collections for Saint Laurent, and the eye is already getting used to his linebacker tailoring, executed in an array of handsome, couture-caliber fabrics, including pinstriped ones and others flecked with Lurex.
He also transferred his penchant for pin-thin models to Saint Laurent’s men’s universe, a disconcerting distraction — especially when his wispy, scarf-like chiffon tops revealed bony shoulders and rib cages — from an otherwise suave parade.
Detractors might deride the show as repetitive, a few leopard prints a reprieve from all the black grain de poudre and white satin.
But like techno music, for which Berlin clubs like Berghain and Tresor are renowned, Vaccarello’s fashions are better described as insistent, delivering a fashion message honed down to a few essential, unmissable ideas.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and “Little Mermaid” star Jessica Alexander were among VIPs rocking Saint Laurent’s power jackets.
“I love the exaggeration,” said Gainsbourg, noting she cherry-picks items from Saint Laurent’s men’s collection, too.
The French actress just wrapped a French series titled “Alphonse,” and managed to slip in a few choice Vaccarello designs for her character.
“It’s about a man who loves old women,” she said about “Alphonse,” answering a reporter’s quizzical expression with: “I’m not an old woman. I’m his wife.…I go toward women, which is very helpful.”
Alexander could not resist shimmying her big shoulders as if she was knocking back ping-pong balls, or punches.
“Yeah, I feel strong. It makes me feel very confident, very sexy,” she purred.
The young star will next be seen in the supernatural TV show “Fallen,” based on Lauren Kate’s bestselling novels. “It’s a very dark, dystopian, twisted drama with a bit of love thrown in,” Alexander said.
Actress Kitty Chicha, gobsmacked by Berlin’s long hours of sunlight and the city’s energy, took in the last rays before the show started alongside other VIPs including Evan Mock, Mark Tuan, Betty Catroux, Coi Leray, Iris Law, Anne Imhof and Georgie Farmer.
Backstage beforehand, Vaccarello said he chose Berlin for the spring show — which fell just before the men’s marathon of shows in Florence, Milan and Paris — because “it’s a city that I’ve always loved and I used to hang out here a lot when I was young.”
He mentioned late-night crawls to Berghain and an appreciation for Fassbinder films, which explains the line plucked from the plaintive song Jeanne Moreau croons at the end of “Querrelle” as the title of his collection: “Each man kills the thing he loves.”
The daring scoop-necked tank tops worn by Brad Davis in that homoerotic 1982 film were reprised on the runway, but Vaccarello etched his Berlin references lightly, via a dark, melancholic and nostalgic mood.
With their slicked-back hair and mirrored aviator glasses with low-slung temples, the spindly models sometimes resembled vampires — or perhaps just party animals who stayed on at the club a little too long.
As is often the case chez Saint Laurent, the clothes skewed formal for dressy, after-dark occasions, floppy bows and trailing streamers among the feminine flourishes.
Vaccarello noted that founder Yves Saint Laurent famously dressed women in pantsuits, and other elements of the masculine wardrobe. “Does putting womenswear on a man take power away from him?” he asked. “No, because in fact, now, it’s not a question of power: It’s a question of feeling good in the garment and of owning it.…It was putting a woman’s power on men.”
After the show, guests repaired to Kraftwerk, a former power station that is now home to Tresor, a subterranean club whose concrete walls, floors and ceilings are pummeled each weekend at 140-plus beats a minute.
A long table for all 200-some guests, laden with tall white candles, stretched almost the entire length of the Brutalist, cathedral-like space.
Two of the techno artists who hit the decks after dinner — Charlotte de Witte and Alexander Ridha, better known by his stage name Boys Noize — chatted furiously about auditory fatigue, summer dance music festivals and the relentless return of furiously fast, very hard techno.
On this night, Saint Laurent felt very Berlin indeed, steeped in dark drama and with a soupçon of grit and underground energy.