Today at noon Paris time, Saint Laurent released No Matter How Long the Night Is, a Menswear Spring/Summer 21 short that uses sophisticated CGI and augmented reality to explore three cities—New York, Paris and Beijing—in various stages of darkness. Models, layered in slim-waisted suiting and woven loafers, perch cross-legged on the cornices of Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers, dangle out of alcoves on the tiered roofs of Paris’ Sacré-Cœur, and lean precipitously against the parapets of China’s Great Wall as the sun rises and their cities flicker to life. The reverie is broken as they hurtle across elevated architectural landscapes like creatures possessed: leaping from one fluted roof to another, clinging to window casings and careening over sprawling cityscapes. The group converges in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower before improvising a runway on its ledge.
Saint Laurent was one of the earliest fashion houses to abandon a frenetic schedule that was feeling increasingly out-of-sync with a new reality. Late this April, the house announced that it would be cancelling its Fall ready-to-wear show to pursue a more deliberate creative pace.
Other big names—from Gucci to Bottega Veneta— have since followed suit in abandoning the traditional show calendar, but a new normal has yet to arise in its place, and July’s whiplash-triggering amalgam of haute couture short films and Milan Fashion Week look-books did little to forecast the dawning of a more meditative fashion culture.
In light of the uncertainty plaguing the multi-trillion dollar industry, No Matter How Long the Night Is offers a glimpse into fashion’s future: an inventive alternative to the mega-budget fashion show that is as pulse-quickening as it is timeless. The film, curated by Anthony Vaccarello and directed by longtime collaborator Nathalie Canguilhem, draws viewers a dizzying distance from street level—long the creative epicenter of the fashion world—and into a new landscape: the vertigo-inducing wilderness of glass and stone that looms overhead. His models traverse these gothic jungle gyms with a certain maniacal calm, as if they might be the last people on earth. No Matter How Long the Night Is presents the metropolis—and the fashion world that blossoms out of it—in its newest iteration: a contemplative landscape built from the ruins of a former empire.