One in a series on the clothes that had a moment at Paris Fashion Week:

PARIS — It would be hard to mount a disappointing runway show with the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the background. Such was the case when the Saint Laurent show was mounted outdoors here on a sweeping plaza that allowed the city’s magnificent architecture to serve as a reminder of how beauty can endure, inspire and reassure. Despite everything everywhere, Paris can still make one swoon.


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Helle Moos/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

In such a setting, it would be easy for the clothes to look like an afterthought — to quickly fade from memory, if they even managed to register at all.


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

But designer Anthony Vaccarello presented a spring 2018 collection that captured both the sizzling zest of the house’s founding principles and the founders’ grasp of technique and beauty. The show served as an homage to the house’s vibrant history as well as a tribute to its great business mind Pierre Bergé, who died this month at 86.

Bergé was devoted to designer Yves Saint Laurent but also to the legacy of the house they founded together. Bergé spent his later years building a foundation that bears his and Saint Laurent’s name and working on two museums, one here and another in Marrakesh, that will open in the fall.


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Bergé was tough and intimidating, outspoken and brutal with his words. He was an art collector and a politician — albeit one who never ran for office. He exemplified French fashion of a particular era: when it ruled the lives of women and cowed American retailers.

Of course, the Eiffel Tower would twinkle for him.


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

In the collection, there were luxurious poet blouses and asymmetrical lace tops. Bejeweled brocade sparkled under the dark sky, and glistening black tuxedo jackets oozed sex appeal. The collection was sexy but not raunchy, luxurious without tipping too far into ostentation. It was sophisticated without losing an ounce of cool.

The finale was simply a parade of short dresses exploding with feathers. The models, transformed into otherworldly creatures, made the long walk from one end of the plaza to the other. They moved with calm confidence and allowed the pure aesthetic swagger of the brand to shine. The momentousness of the presentation called to mind Saint Laurent’s 1998 World Cup show in front of some 80,000 spectators. This show was tiny by comparison, but situated in the heart of the city, it had the same sense of importance. Passersby were able to perch on nearby benches and walls and view the spectacle for themselves. Traffic swirled in the distance. Tour buses slowed.


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Fashion always sees itself as a reflection of the culture and an arbiter of the times. But so often, these shows are walled off from the public, tucked away in some dark grotto or behind gilded doors. On Tuesday night, Saint Laurent was immersed in the city where the brand was born, the city that defines it. And both the city and the collection dazzled.

Also at Paris Fashion Week: 

Lush, timeless beauty from fashion’s normal guy

Clothes that could make air travel glamorous again. Well, almost.

Chloe’s new designer came up with a fresh idea for pants, and it actually works

Dior slaps a slogan on a T-shirt and tries to pass it off as feminism

There is just no excuse for this ugly, boring fashion


Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)