Adrift in the Venetian Lagoon

Was it the Anne Rice-type casting? Or the banal installation by the artist Doug Aitken?

Was it the Anne Rice-type casting? Or the banal installation by the artist Doug Aitken? Was it the anachronistic garments on their own, with their lazy nods to other eras and intervals, that still left a viewer with the feeling that the Saint Laurent men’s don demonstrate — like the mirrored sets on which it was held — stood as an inadvertent emblem of a lot that has absent amiss in the enjoyable residence of the layout environment, where by illustrations or photos devoid of identifiable supply are mirrored endlessly back to on their own?

The demonstrate was held this week on the sleepy island of La Certosa in Venice, a quick boat trip and still worlds away from the Grand Canal. Glimmering indicators of hope have emerged lately for a metropolis reimagined as a thing other than an obligatory location for deal-tour groups. In the absence of most visitors in the course of Covid, a loose and relatively unlikely coalition of Venetian activists has gotten extra persuasive in its efforts to change the orientation of Venice absent from its historic riches and toward the fragile environment itself.

There seemed each and every motive, then, to rejoice when designers like Rick Owens, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Mr. Vaccarello joined artists and architects — the Venice Architecture Biennale, whose topic is “How Will We Reside Collectively?”, is on until November — in producing the city a backdrop and place for their function. And however, significantly from being a collaboration in spirit with this magical metropolis, the Saint Laurent present left a nagging impact that it equally could have been held any spot else.

In an interview with Vogue, the Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello spelled out that the notion for the show had been hatched a lot more than a calendar year ago and mothballed just after Covid compelled the entire world into lockdown. Spouting a variety of notions about juxtaposing past with current and alluding to other time periods (that of the English “New Romantics,” for one), Mr. Vaccarello vamped on the issue of rebirth.

But recursiveness is not regeneration. And mining the archives of your residence (and the back webpages of many others, like Haider Ackermann) for references is no substitute for coming up with one thing clean. The perception of déjà vu all above yet again increasingly made this viewer itchy as he viewed the bony, tattooed versions move by way of sets created with the intention of reflecting the thrillingly many moods of the Venetian sky.

The boys (they appeared barely additional than that) appeared cold, lacking vitality or company — passive even by the expectations of their occupation. Not for the first time at a fashion demonstrate, I discovered myself asking “Who is this for?” What Gen Z dude is eager to costume himself in stovepipe flood pants, large-shouldered jackets with the sleeves rolled up, billowing cloaks, lacy pirate shirts, system boots or leopard-patterned winkle-picker shoes?

Like a large amount of designers, notably his influential predecessor Hedi Slimane, Mr. Vaccarello seems eager to conjure up a style or a tribe, one thing on the order of what Mr. Slimane did at the label and as Olivier Rousteing completed in conscripting followers by the hundreds of thousands for his so-referred to as Balmain Military. Yet, as outlandishly glitzy as some of Mr. Rousteing’s initiatives can be, he is generally persuasive. Anywhere the imaginary club his Balmain young ones ended up headed to, you wished you could tag along.

Instead, as the Saint Laurent products sloped around the Aitken set, one particular stored visualizing people identical fellas dropping the affectless poses as they whipped backstage right after the demonstrate and transformed into the saggers and Allbirds that are their generation’s default uniform.

In mind’s eye, it was uncomplicated to imagine them tucking skateboards beneath their arms for the vaporetto journey to the mainland and, eventually, to that other Venice — you know, the one in Mr. Slimane’s transplanted dwelling, Southern California.