Doug Aitken Installation Sets the Stage for Saint Laurent Menswear

Doug Aitken, Green Lens, 2021. Photography by Chris Wallace.
Doug Aitken, Green Lens, 2021. Photography by Chris Wallace.

Though the sun was setting in the Venetian sky, Saint Laurent’s Spring Summer 2022 Menswear runway cast its own light on the evening of July 14. The source was a mirrored installation by conceptual artist Doug Aitken, a site-specific commission by Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello on the island of Isola Della Certosa that served both as stageset and accompaniment to the fashion show. Entirely covered in mirrors and adorned with foliage, Green Lens reflects its surroundings, symbolizing the seamless integration of man-made structure with the natural world. A reflective façade gives the portal-like artwork a certain invisibility, and presented realtime images of the Saint Laurent looks that passed through it similarly as works of art.

Doug Aitken, Green Lens, 2021. Photography courtesy of Saint Laurent.

During the show, models strolled through and around the prismatic structure, eclipsing their own reflections and continuously seeming to converge with the mirrored artwork just before reemerging from it. Their movement within Green Lens attributed a cyclical sense of perpetual reinvention to the sleek looks they wore, where accents of lace and tailored frills added moments of wearable pleasure. Activated in this way, “Green Lens is a living artwork,” explains Aitken. “It is both an artwork, installation and stage. It’s like a lighthouse that one can journey to and have a very personal experience while it also transmits light, ideas and questions, a focal point that allows all of us to share our ideas and visions for the future post-Covid, as well as a celebration and inquiry into the future.” Darker hued clothing contrasted boldly with the iridescent installation walls, and retro styles diverged from its futuristic evocations. The billowy movements of light, looser-fitting pieces stood out against the monumental install, more in dialogue with the vitality of the plant life situated within it.

The show marked a successful fusion of the two artistic mediums, whereby Aitken and Vaccarello’s works enjoyed a mutually beneficial coexistence. As two separate entities, the juxtaposition of the structure and the collection amplified each work’s distinctly alluring qualities. Yet, it was the entirety of the spectacle, taken in all at once, that successfully executed the Saint Laurent vision. This blurring of creative lines is a key part of the fashion house’s history, says Vaccarello. “Saint Laurent’s cult iconography always combined creative disciplines across art and fashion,” the designer and creative director states, and it often leads to moments, such as this, of visual magic.

On the scene at the Saint Laurent S/S 22 Men's runway. Photography by Chris Wallace.

Now that its runway party guests have come and gone, Saint Laurent is gifting the experiential artwork to the city of Venice temporarily. It will remain in place through the end of July as a destination in and of itself for the current Venice Architecture Biennale. As the artist intends for the work to be a model where innovation takes the environment into consideration, the Saint Laurent show is only the first of many events and performances for the brand that Green Lens will host in the coming weeks, all focused on imagining and conceptualizing the future. The public will be able to access footage of such activations as well as visit the sites themselves, ultimately making Green Lens the mirrored, symmetrical, Saint Laurent version of a conceptual crystal ball.

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