Adrift in the Venetian Lagoon

Was it the Anne Rice-style casting? Or the banal set up by the artist Doug Aitken? Was it the anachronistic garments themselves, with their lazy nods to different eras and durations, that left a viewer with the sense that the Saint Laurent males’s put on present — like the mirrored units on which it was held — stood as an inadvertent emblem of a lot that has gone amiss in the enjoyable home of the design world, the place pictures with out identifiable supply are mirrored endlessly again to themselves?

The present was held this week on the sleepy island of La Certosa in Venice, a brief boat trip and but worlds away from the Grand Canal. Glimmering indicators of hope have emerged recently for a metropolis reimagined as one thing apart from an compulsory vacation spot for package-tour teams. In the absence of most vacationers throughout Covid, a unfastened and considerably unlikely coalition of Venetian activists has gotten extra persuasive in its efforts to shift the orientation of Venice away from its historic riches and towards the fragile atmosphere itself.

There appeared each cause, then, to rejoice when designers like Rick Owens, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Mr. Vaccarello joined artists and designers — the Venice Architecture Biennale, whose theme is “How Will We Live Together?”, is on till November — in making the metropolis a backdrop and vacation spot for his or her work. And but, removed from being a collaboration in spirit with this magical metropolis, the Saint Laurent present left a nagging impression that it equally may have been held anywhere else.

In an interview with Vogue, the Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello defined that the idea for the present had been hatched greater than a yr in the past and mothballed after Covid compelled the world into lockdown. Spouting varied notions about juxtaposing previous with current and alluding to different time durations (that of the English “New Romantics,” for one), Mr. Vaccarello vamped on the topic of rebirth.

Saint Laurent, spring 2022.Credit…by way of Saint Laurent

But recursiveness is just not regeneration. And mining the archives of your home (and the again pages of others, like Haider Ackermann) for references is not any substitute for arising with one thing contemporary. The sense of déjà vu another time more and more made this viewer itchy as he watched the bony, tattooed fashions transfer by means of units created with the intention of reflecting the thrillingly varied moods of the Venetian sky.

The boys (they appeared hardly greater than that) appeared cold, missing vitality or company — passive even by the requirements of their career. Not for the first time at a style present, I discovered myself asking “Who is this for?” What Gen Z man is keen to costume himself in stovepipe flood pants, big-shouldered jackets with the sleeves rolled up, billowing cloaks, lacy pirate shirts, platform boots or leopard-patterned winkle-picker sneakers?

Like numerous designers, notably his influential predecessor Hedi Slimane, Mr. Vaccarello seems desirous to conjure up a sort or a tribe, one thing on the order of what Mr. Slimane did at the label and as Olivier Rousteing achieved in conscripting followers by the hundreds of thousands for his so-called Balmain Army. Yet, as outlandishly glitzy as a few of Mr. Rousteing’s efforts might be, he’s all the time persuasive. Wherever the imaginary membership his Balmain children have been headed to, you wished you possibly can tag alongside.

Instead, as the Saint Laurent fashions sloped round the Aitken set, one saved visualizing those self same guys dropping the affectless poses as they whipped backstage after the present and become the saggers and Allbirds which might be their technology’s default uniform.

In thoughts’s eye, it was straightforward to ascertain them tucking skateboards beneath their arms for the vaporetto journey to the mainland and, ultimately, to that different Venice — you already know, the one in Mr. Slimane’s transplanted dwelling, Southern California.