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The Naked Truth About Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent-by Vanessa Friedman

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My Saint Laurent is not going to be Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent. It’s time to start afresh — kind of.

That’s the fairly clear message from Anthony Vaccarello’s first public statement as creative director of YSL. Which is to say: his first ad campaign.

Released on Friday, the campaign is attached to no particular season or product. Indeed, there are pretty much no products visible at all (perhaps because Mr. Vaccarello has not yet shown any products for the house). An ad campaign for a fashion house without any real fashion in it?

Indeed, think of it as a mission statement instead of a marketing exercise. And as far as a mission statement goes, it can be mostly summed up as: 15 unknowns, women and men, stripped to their bare skin. He is paring away the fuss, the better to rebuild.

Much was made when Mr. Slimane left (after months of speculation and breast-beating in the fashion community) over the question of whether Mr. Vaccarello would, as Mr. Slimane did when he arrived in 2012, change everything at YSL, or whether he would be charged with effectively continuing a pallid version of the aesthetic Mr. Slimane had created. The campaign would indicate the answer is neither one nor the other, but somewhere in between.

It was not shot by Mr. Vaccarello himself, the way most of the ad campaigns under the famously controlling Mr. Slimane were shot by Mr. Slimane, but by the American photographer Collier Schorr. It continues Mr. Slimane’s focus on youth, and is black and white, as were many of Mr. Slimane’s ads. But the youth it celebrates is not that of the grungy Los Angeles music scene, one of Mr. Slimane’s obsessions; it is not youth identified with any particular place or fetish, except for a certain comfort and delight in the body. Which suggests we may be in for some sex.

Well, all of Mr. Vaccarello’s past work under his own name suggested the same thing, so that’s not really a surprise.

The ads are the beginning of a carefully orchestrated rollout of Mr. Vaccarello’s vision for YSL. They will be followed on Monday by an updating of the YSL website and Instagram account, which somewhat controversially got wiped clean of its Slimane content after the designer’s departure. The rollout will culminate in October with Mr. Vaccarello’s first Saint Laurent women’s wear show in Paris.

At which point everyone may have become so used to Mr. Vaccarello’s messaging they will have forgotten Mr. Slimane’s version (fashion memories are pretty short), and whatever shape the new collection takes, it may have less the shock of a freezing plunge in a pool than the pleasant embrace of a warm bath. There are currently a lot of complaints going around about how social media is to blame for consumer product saturation/boredom, but when it comes to getting people inured to a brand’s new identity, it does have its uses.

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lensed by Collier Schorr

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