“We want to be more immersive for the consumer, and possibly reach some people who wouldn’t necessarily come to Saint Laurent, but who could – through this boutique – better understand the universe I’m trying to create.” – Anthony Vaccarello, YSL creative director
SAINT LAURENT Rive Droite—tethered by history, stretched by ambitions
With panache, the House of SAINT LAURENT opened two SAINT LAURENT Rive Droite flagships on 8 June—one in Paris, the other across the Atlantic, in Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. These museum-esque boutiques pronounce SAINT LAURENT’s aspiration to requalify the brand and an allusion to SAINT LAURENT’s legacy; or as YSL’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, puts it, “enlarging the universe and DNA of Saint Laurent”.
In both the Parisian and Californian flagship, the brainchildren of Vaccarello adhered assiduously to the iconic monochromatic layout, as with its testy apparel. Like the other YSL boutiques, the signature interior design—the immaculate white marble floor edged by large mirrors and black marble panels—is not lost with the new flagships, but rather, is enhanced by a myriad of bric-à-brac and furniture, and transformed into a retail destination for “expression, exchange and lifestyle”. Perhaps, considering YSL’s chic and edgy vogue, it is even provocatively appropriate to feature a portrait of a woman’s bare posterior in a netted pantyhose.
Apart from the usual men’s and women’s ready-to-wear apparel, the highly curated boutiques also offer limited-edition articles as well as books, vinyl, vintage, and even novelty pieces like skateboards and yoga mats. If that hasn’t yet raised any eyebrows, consider this—YSL branded condoms are on sale.
Universalising the SAINT LAURENT experience
When interviewed, Vaccarello explained, “We want to be more immersive for the consumer, and possibly reach some people who wouldn’t necessarily come to Saint Laurent, but who could – through this boutique – better understand the universe I’m trying to create.” True to his words, Vaccarello has intentions to universalise the spacious boutiques by hosting exhibitions, concerts and even film screenings to forge a more holistic brand identity.
While Vaccarello’s seeming frivolous use (or underuse) of some of the world most expensive land area may be puzzling to some, it is actually a stroke of genius. According to a Forbes’ interview of branding and marketing expert Olga Panacenko, the culture of ‘exclusion’ that luxury brands once embrace does not necessarily fit with Gen Z and millennials; rather, these marques need to be more culturally inclusive to woo the young money. This is precisely the reason for the birth of the two new flagships. The immersive and open concept of SAINT LAURENT Rive Droite plays down the sense of hyper-commercialisation as customers can now unpretentiously step foot into the boutique to learn about YSL’s heritage and distinctive style per se.
Paradoxically, without feeling pressurised to buy, it creates a stronger personalised brand-customer loyalty (and possibly better sales) that transcends the realm of the physical merchandise—the brand loyalty that increasingly affluent young adults identify with nowadays is grounded in the experience, heritage, and human feelings associated with the consumption of the product. This strategy is not unique to YSL. Hermès also has been meticulously sculpting its brand image for years by featuring veteran craftsperson at work to spread the artisanal-quality and authenticity of the brand. Being able to relate to the intangible-but-emotive qualities of the brand, young customers will be more willing to shell out.
A Tribute to Yves Saint Laurent’s first boutique—SAINT LAURENT Rive Gauche
Yves Saint Laurent once said, “I had had enough of making dresses for jaded billionaires.” Thus, when the namesake designer Yves Saint Laurent first founded his boutique, SAINT LAURENT Rive Gauche, in 1966 along the left bank of River Seine, he promulgated the eponymous Rive Gauche line that helped democratise luxury fashion in the sixties. That said, the Rive Gauche line is not a haute couture knock-off; each piece in the collection was afforded as much care, or even greater dedication, to nudge Parisian towards high-quality ready-to-wear fashion against YSL’s haute couture-oriented contemporaries.
53 years on, the house of SAINT LAURENT came full circle—except now with stores worldwide and as today’s fashion pride—to establish SAINT LAURENT Rive Droite along the right bank of River Seine, as a nod to YSL’s first Rive Gauche boutique and collection. Metaphorically traversing the River Seine from the left to the right bank, and religiously abiding by the house’s distinctive palette in face of luxury fashion’s changing paradigm, the new museum-like emporiums are the ultimate embodiment of SAINT LAURENT’s perpetuating relevance in fashion.