Anthony Vaccarello

I strive for both a kind of sensuality and a control and construction . . . It’s sexy because the girl is wearing the dress.Anthony Vaccarello

A graduate of La Cambre—the Belgian design school that’s not the Royal Academy of Fine Arts—32-year-old, Brussels-born Anthony Vaccarello approaches his craft differently than his countrymen in Antwerp. “When I’m working, I’m making clothes around the body. I’m more about the draping, and finding the right line,” he explains. “Maybe because I’m half-Italian and half-Belgian, I strive for both a kind of sensuality and a control and construction.” Vaccarello focuses on tailoring and shape, saving that oh-so-important element of seduction for the very end. “It’s sexy because the girl is wearing the dress,” he explains. “It’s not my first goal when I’m making the collection.”

Even though Vaccarello may be more body-conscious than those of the Antwerp six or Martin Margiela, he still has a lot of respect for the old guard. He is particularly proud of his student thesis earning the top honor at the 2006 Hyères Festival, when Ann Demeulemeester was among the jurors. It was an all-leather collection that not only won him the award, but a two-year stint designing fur at Fendi as well. At the Rome atelier, Vaccarello began to understand the collaborative nature of running a fashion business, a lesson he quickly applied when he left for Paris in 2008, founding his own label and eventually bringing his longtime boyfriend and fellow designer, Arnaud Michaux, on board. “Arnaud is very technical,” Vaccarello says. “When I have a crazy idea, he finds a way to make it happen.” The pair work and live out of a 19th-century building in the Marais. Their apartment is on the fourth floor, with their studio on the first, and there’s a zipper supplier on the two floors in between. (“Very useful,” jokes Vaccarello.)

It was in Paris, too, that Vaccarello first crossed paths with his multihyphenate muse, Lou Doillon. They met at a dinner party, though Vaccarello didn’t have the courage to speak to her until the end of the night. The next day, the two—along with photographer Julia Champeau—shot Vaccarello’s look book for Fall 2010 in a parking garage near Doillon’s Bastille apartment. The production took 10 minutes, because Doillon had to leave to pick up her son from school, exactly the sort of unpretentious thing Vaccarello admires about his friend. “She’s a Parisian without all the Parisian clichés,” he says.

The same description could be used to describe Vaccarello’s designs, which won him last year’s coveted ANDAM award—France’s equivalent of the CFDA. His Fall 2012 collection offers a barrage of expertly cut pieces: jackets, shirts, sharp suiting, skinny trousers, and his signature hybrids, much of it in monochromatic navy—think part smoking jacket, part dress or jumpsuit, with strategically draped gold bands or shiny green deconstructed bras. “People always think I’m making ‘a little black dress,’ ” says Vaccarello. “Navy was a good opportunity to keep it dark and to focus on the shape and line.” He imagined that cliché black dress at a midnight ball, turning blue as it’s bathed in moonlight. But even though he’s a rising star of Parisian fashion, Vaccarello still relies on the kindness of close connections: When it came to casting his Fall 2012 show in February, his friend Karlie Kloss agreed to sign on—soon, calls came from other models asking to join. “I think they knew that models like Karlie were doing the show,” he says, “and googled my name to see what I did.”