Saint Laurent’s Midnight Cowboys Hit the Runway in New Jersey (!)

Saint Laurent Resort 2019 - Split- Getty-H 2018
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Julianne Moore, Paul Bettany and Kate Moss sat front row for Anthony Vaccarello’s latest men’s collection.

Designer Anthony Vaccarello opted for the most dazzling backdrop he could envision — the downtown Manhattan skyline — for the debut of his Spring/Summer 2019 Saint Laurent menswear collection on Wednesday night.

Last season, he chose the Eiffel Tower as the mise en scène for the combined showing of his Spring 2018 men’s and women’s collections. Such blatant spectacle would seem like hubris in the hands of some designers, but with Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, he’s both conjuring and paying tribute to the DNA of the house.

Thus everyone trekked via specially arranged ferries to the point where that Manhattan view would be at its most dramatic: Liberty State Park in New Jersey, where theatrical scaffolding and staging (complete with fog machines) was erected along the shoreline, with the audience pointed due north at the mouth of the Hudson River. Julianne Moore, Paul Bettany, Kate Moss, Sebastian Stan and Dave Franco were among those who made the trip to this little seaside New Jersey corner, perhaps so the glamour from all those lights on the other side of the Hudson might feel a bit more balanced.

Vaccarello’s fall 2018 clothes, all broad-shouldered and rife with 1980s influences, evoked thoughts of Parisian excess and traveled back in time a little further, to capture the flavor of New York in the 1970s.

Midnight Cowboy, which bowed in 1969, told the story of the wide-eyed Joe Buck, who travels from Texas to Manhattan because he believes his looks and charms will find favor with the city’s socialites; that was the introduction of sex-as-currency in New York, an idea that would reach its zenith in the Studio 54 scene just a few years later. Yves Saint Laurent was a regular at that club, of course, and not coincidentally, he also would choose the city — and a boat at South Street Seaport — for the launch of Opium, his most iconic fragrance, in 1977.

All of these ingredients could be seen in the clothes Vaccarello sent out  on a parade of models that resembled current-day Joe Bucks, from the Western-inspired stitching on a cropped jacket to the disco influences of black sequined jeans or an eyelash-fringe coat. (Like last season, men and women mixed together on the runway, though here the women were decidedly more androgynous, Kaia Gerber notwithstanding.) The polish in these mostly casual pieces was in the shine and embellishments, from the lush embroideries on a bomber to the glimmer of a long-sleeve T-shirt encrusted with crystals.

That touch of sparkle also was seen on the front row, especially in some of the jackets worn by A-listers on this unusually chilly June evening. (On the way into the show, tables also offered cashmere wraps for those who had dressed for warmer temps.)

Broadway producer Jordan Roth (nominated this year for a Tony Award for best revival of a play for Angels in America) was glad he had chosen wisely, wearing a Saint Laurent black velvet bomber jacket embroidered with silver bugle beads to create a zebra pattern. “What more could you want in the world?” Roth said of the piece. And how does he define the appeal of Vaccarello’s designs for Saint Laurent? “I always feel so extraordinarily sexy in his clothes,” he said. “You put them on, and they move your body in certain ways. You feel it in your hips, you feel it in your shoulders, and it’s a great feeling.”

To echo that thought, the finale of this Saint Laurent presentation wasn’t a typical carousel repeat of everything already seen; instead, Vaccarello sent out a procession of young men, all in sparkling black jeans, their bare chests covered in silver body glitter and the laissez-faire styling of slim black scarves and a few necklaces. One couldn’t help but think that Yves Saint Laurent surely would have loved the idea — especially during the afterparty, which took place on another boat that slowly cruised back up the Hudson, where the models, now in their own street clothes, could be identified easily by the silver glitter that had not been completely scrubbed from their necks and faces.

At show’s end, it’s also notable that Vaccarello took no bow. Rather, he let the clothes — and the scene — speak for themselves.