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A huge crane in the colors of the French flag hoisted up a giant neon YSL logo above a construction site in the French capital, literally setting expectations high for this year’s YSL show at Paris Fashion Week. The decor announced that the grand debut from Saint Laurent’s new designer Anthony Vaccarello on Tuesday night aimed to dramatically reconstruct the YSL aesthetic following the departure of Hedi Slimane.

French singer Jane Birkin and her two actress daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon stared up expectantly alongside myriad iPhone-snapping fashionistas to marvel at the radiant 50-meter (164-foot) crane – a real machine being used to rebuild the house’s Paris Left Bank headquarters. “The derelict aspect sets a nice metaphor,” said Gainsbourg, speaking from the show’s front row. “Anthony has completely understood the house codes,” Doillon said ahead of the show. As the designer’s revealing looks filed by, the metaphor of reconstruction and renewal of the Saint Laurent image was heard loud and clear but the high expectations set by the decor were dashed.

This “new” image was largely a rehash of the Glamazon, uber-sexy, ultra-mini styles that have come to be synonymous with the 34-year-old Italian-Belgian designer’s own brand and his work at Donatella Versace’s flesh-baring Versus house. To his credit, Vaccarello’s debut featured a check-list of YSL archive references, with iconic YSL pieces fused alongside the sex aesthetic. A sultry leather variation on the voluminous sleeves of the Flamenco Dress shimmered with cool ’80s micro-mini. Yves Saint Laurent’s 1968 transparent looks, which once shocked the fashion establishment, made a comeback and Vaccarello gave a nod to the textured materials of the famed 1976 Ballets Russes collection.

There was also, at times, a marked return to elegance, which had eluded his predecessor Slimane. Those touches turned up in revamped archive YSL tuxedos and lashings of black. It was certainly not a groundbreaking collection, but many of the styles could prove highly appealing to the younger clients the house has courted in recent years.-AP

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