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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Lauren Cochrane in Paris

Sheer and now: see-through fabrics dominate Saint Laurent’s Paris show

A model on the runway at the Saint Laurent show in Paris.
A model on the runway at the Saint Laurent show in Paris. Photograph: WWD/Getty Images

If the “Free the nipple” campaign is a relatively recent phenomenon, designed to push back against Instagram’s female nipple ban, Yves Saint Laurent was playing his part long before social media. Back in 1968, he debuted what was quickly referred to by the press as the “see-through blouse”, a chiffon design worn with nothing underneath.

It’s an item that was surely on the mood board for Saint Laurent’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, on Tuesday night at Paris fashion week. His autumn/winter 2024 collection was dominated by see-through fabric, with the majority of models bare-breasted under translucent blouses, fitted T-shirts and sleeveless tops. Some also wore transparent pencil skirts, with high-legged knickers visible underneath.

Saint Laurent has been popular on the red carpet with stars including Dominic Sessa, Quinta Brunson and Cillian Murphy wearing the designs during the current awards season.

The celebrity count in Paris was high, too, with Kate Moss, Charlotte Rampling, Rossy de Palma and Georgia May Jagger sitting in the front row. If there was a focus on “not suitable for work” sheer fabrics, those thinking about what to wear for future photo opportunities would no doubt have been pleased to see different takes on glamour – such as satin blouses in jewel colours, trouser suits with defined shoulders and slouchy shapes, and disco-ready “chubby” coats, made from lots of marabou feathers.

Saint Laurent’s transparency is perhaps in focus again because an exhibition, Sheer, is taking place at the Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris, focusing on the designer’s work with diaphanous fabrics. However, it’s not just the brand’s founder that Vaccarello is inspired by.

The show notes for the collection mentioned a different moment for sheer: Marilyn Monroe’s “naked” dress worn to sing Happy Birthday Mr President in 1962. A hot button topic recently – after Kim Kardashian wore the dress to the Met Gala in 2022 – the reference of it here shows how women wearing clothes that reveal and also conceal their body retains an impact more than 60 years after Monroe.

The connections between culture and fashion have been a theme during Vaccarello’s time at Saint Laurent. If a project in summer 2023 saw the brand under fire for selling vintage band T-shirts for thousands of euros, the brand has continued to double down on these connections. It recently launched Saint Laurent Babylone, a bookshop, in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. With the stock curated directly by Vaccarello, it is bolstered by events this Paris fashion week, including book signings from the model Linda Evangelista and photographer Juergen Teller, and an exhibition by the British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey.

This follows a series of adverts that have been lauded by the fashion press, featuring older models including Michael Stipe, Lauren Hutton and, in a very welcome move that finally brings some racial diversity into the trend, a 79-year-old Diana Ross.

Like many luxury brands, Saint Laurent is experiencing a reduction in revenue. Kering, the group that owns the brand, reported that sales fell 4% on a comparable basis in the third quarter of 2023 although “the House achieved positive momentum in women’s ready-to-wear”. This show – with its focus on those always-impactful sheer pieces – is set to cement that position in 2024.

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