At Rive Droite, an Experimental Boutique in the Heart of Paris, Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello Is Selling Clothing and Artworks Side-by-Side
Revisiting the spirit that animated the brand's historic collections, the store offers a fusion of fashion with other forms of creativity.
Since coming on board as the creative director of Saint Laurent in 2016, Anthony Vaccarello has brought a fresh, modern vision to the French fashion brand while subtly recalling the spirit that animated its creation in 1961.
Pulsating with light, color, and sound, his runway shows echo the bravura presentations that, decades ago, earned Yves Saint Laurent more than one standing ovation. Vaccarello’s clothes speak to today’s Saint Laurent woman—powerful, opinionated, and unapologetically sexy—in a similar manner, channeling the implicit eroticism of the brand’s 1970s collections and occasionally referencing some of the same muses of that era.
But while Vaccarello has garnered significant attention for his presentations of clothes, he has also been busy behind the scenes. The designer’s newest brainchild is Saint Laurent Rive Droite, a boutique located in the heart of Paris’s high-end Right Bank shopping district. Conceived to showcase Saint Laurent’s unique creative legacy, the concept shop offers a specially curated selection of art and design items in addition to the brand’s clothing.
“Saint Laurent Rive Droite is a cultural and lifestyle destination,” Vaccarello told Artnet News. “The idea here is to show different facets of the house. It’s really about bringing my vision of Saint Laurent to the biggest audience possible and channeling the Saint Laurent spirit.”
The boutique opened in June on the Rue Saint-Honoré. (A sister store is now open on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.) Its large windows offer a clear view into an interior marked by Vaccarello’s signature colors: black-and-white marble for the floors and walls, clear glass for the partitions, and gold-toned fixtures that make a strong visual impact both from the street and when inside the store.
The eclectic nature of Rive Droite’s design ethos greets visitors upon entry, beginning with a towering wooden Senufo bird sculpture stationed in the front window. The African art piece, positioned to peer over the Rue Saint-Honoré, hints at the assorted collection of objects that awaits visitors inside the space, while also paying tribute to the great art and design collection amassed by Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime partner, Pierre Bergé. (The bird is on loan from the Galerie Lucas Ratton—the same gallery where Saint Laurent and Bergé reportedly acquired their own Senufo bird, the first piece to enter their collection.)
The store’s name, spelled out in shiny brass letters on the window, will no doubt speak more meaningfully to those old enough to remember that, in 1966, Saint Laurent shook up the fashion world by opening Rive Gauche. A reference to the bohemian spirit of the Left Bank, Rive Gauche introduced a then-revolutionary concept for a house of haute couture, namely a ready-to-wear line of mass-produced clothing that catered to a larger clientele. It was a move to democratize fashion, and an oblique affront to the reactionary attitudes of the fashion houses on the Right Bank.
In many ways, Rive Droite has sprung from the same desire for creative evolution that brought Rive Gauche into being. It is a vehicle for Vaccarello’s overhaul of fashion and a new outlet for his ideas. It is also where the designer is revamping retail by expanding the store into a personally curated space where fashion coexists with art, technology, music, and literature. Through the shop, Vaccarello hopes to democratize fashion by incorporating elements of the broader cultural arena. “We want this store to be inclusive,” he says.
To that end, Rive Droite is designed to make visitors feel at ease as they browse the clothing, boutique-exclusive products, accessories, and jewelry on display. In addition, there are gadgets, seasonal objects, a bar, and a musical corner. Most interestingly, though, there is thought-provoking art, on loan from galleries, to admire or buy onsite.
On the ground floor, a drawing done in ballpoint pen by Alberto Giacometti, titled Head (1950–55), greets visitors near a set of black-and-white Polaroids by Robert Mapplethorpe. The photos depict bound male bodies from the artist’s “S&M Gear” (1972) and “Tony, London” (1973) series, in addition to bats from “Helen Marden’s Bats” (1974). All the art reflects Vaccarello’s personal taste and curatorial range in the retail space, where he has been given carte blanche to assemble works—no matter how risqué—of his choosing.
Upstairs, Sterling Ruby’s Vampire 118 (2013), a wall-mounted installation made of leather and fiberfill, echoes the minimalism of a Takis sculpture from 1974 that is placed near a Pierre Jeanneret living-room set on loan from Galerie Patrick Seguin. There, visitors can lounge around on midcentury modern furniture and leaf through new and vintage art books, including tomes on Saint Laurent’s past couture collections.
Contrasting shapes and textures have long been recurring motifs in Saint Laurent collections, and Vaccarello has embraced the juxtaposition in his choice of art, too. On a mirror, Ed Ruscha’s gritty Omaha to New York (2000) hangs beside a grainy 1996 drawing by Richard Serra on handmade paper, both of which contrast with the polished golden surfaces of Lucio Fontana’s twin Concetto Spaziale Natura sculptures (1967).
The presence of art is not incidental to the boutique—in fact, an artistic project served as the main inspiration for Rive Droite. In 2018, Vaccarello collaborated with the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama to produce a series of 77 black-and-white portraits of subtly provocative women, each of whom possesses the street-smart attitude attributed to the modern-day Saint Laurent-styled girl.
Last year, the portraits were exhibited in a glass installation in the gardens of the Palais Royal, and now Moriyama is back at Rive Droite through two works: a photograph from his well-known “Tights” series (1987) and a 2001 silkscreen featuring a series of lips.
“From the start, I have seen Saint Laurent more as an attitude rather than a literal reference to the past, so it’s really more of a lifestyle,” says Vaccarello. “It’s about invoking that spirit. We want [the experience] 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 creating.”
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