As She Kicks Off Another Season of Paris Fashion Week, We Introduce Marine Serre and Her 10 People To Meet from Issue 64
Hype can be a dangerous tool in the hands of an emerging designer. If not handled properly, it can permanently damage or even erase a creative from the face of the earth (or at least the fashion-week schedule). But sometimes, more rarely, hype can also be an incredibly powerful springboard on the way to world domination. Marine Serre, of course, falls into the latter category, having gone from an obscure thinker with radical ideas to being one of the most well- respected names in the industry in just over two years. When she speaks, everyone listens – including the 10 or so people that make up her universe, as seen on the pages of Issue 64 of 10 Magazine. They are: Adrian Joffe, Tony Delcampe, Michèle Lamy, Mark Holgate, Pepijn van Eden, Juliet Merie, Benoît Béthume, Damiaan Polman, Etienne Auguste, Sofia Chalaguina & Tanguy Poloy. But first, let’s talk to the designer herself…
Saying a young designer is reinventing the ideas of luxury might sound clichéd, but that statement has never been more appropriate than when talking about Marine Serre. The French-born and based designer, 28, has created a revolution since first emerging on the scene with A Radical Call for Love, her graduate collection from La Cambre in Brussels that led to her winning the LVMH Prize in 2017 (she was the first French person to do so). At the time, she was arguably one of the least- expected-to-win contenders for the prize, but her charming energy and otherworldly talent cast their spell and soon the whole world had seen the image of the petite, pixie-haired designer accepting a gold award from none other than Rihanna.
Just over two years later, Marine Serre – the brand and the person – is in a whole other ball game, and we’re not just talking about her signature bag design. Having invested the €300,000 grant that made up part of the prize into steadily growing her team and moving the atelier from her tiny flat into an 800-square-metre space, her collections have been allowed an organised sense of expansion. In the same way Martin Margiela numbered his lines, Serre has created a classification of her own, as presented with Hardcore Couture, her SS19 collection: seasonal couture Red, foundation White, experimental Gold and upcycled Green. Each of the lines represented part of her brand’s expression, which worked just as much as it sounds cool. “To grow right, it was important for me to create what I think is the core base for what I want the brand to be,” says Serre. “So, even when there are more people [in the team], it is easy to communicate even with internal people. And, at the same time, it is important externally as part of understanding the prices.”
Ahead of her SS20 show, though, Serre announced the Green line will be dropped as such, a response to it becoming effortlessly incorporated within the other three lines, with more than 50% of the garments now being created from upcycled textiles. That’s where the reinvention of luxury comes in – Serre might not be the first to use upcycling as part of a design process, but she is the one who has succeeded in creating a commercially viable scale of producing these pieces, with a first-come, first-served approach. Whether it’s vintage brooches and scarves that embellish the garments or actual blankets and dead- stock denim that turn into full looks, a lot of her work is inspired by pieces she finds during her sourcing trips across Belgium, Holland and France. “It’s really organic, because you meet a person who has a stock of something and then another who has a stock of something else,” says Serre. “Other times, we find a bigger spot where they have everything, but you just have to open the dirty box and see inside.”
Serre has been obsessed with collecting garments since she was 14, and the excitement about sourcing materials is reflected in the way the stories extend from one collection to the next, with recognisable staple elements remaining at the core. One of those is the crescent-moon motif, which has become a logo of sorts since the beginning. “You see the moon everywhere because it’s a super-abstract form that has been existing for a long time. So it evolves with me, and the reason I’m using it is because it’s a super-nice form to play with.” According to Serre, it reflects who the brand is: “We are a super-hybrid, we can move in two times. I’m mixing 18th-century codes with sportswear, with futurism and functionality.” While it does indeed carry a lot of cultural and religious connotations, this symbol is something each person has their own interpretation of. “This moon is not actually mine but at the same time everyone can recognise it,” says Serre. But in fashion, the moon does indeed belong to Serre – her Lycra tops, leggings, dresses and even hosiery printed with it have become must-haves.
Another of her brand signatures is the Dream Ball bag, originally introduced as part of her AW18 show, Manic Soul Machine. Partly inspired by equipment used in the gymnastics classes she attended when she was younger, the shape also came out of a search for creating a bag that didn’t require an expensive development process. “At the same time, it’s funny, because it’s a piece that already exists in the universal memory of everyone, but is then transformed into a proper luxury object without losing the history of the bag.” That’s the kind of whimsy that explains the success and relevance of Serre’s work today – irony that doesn’t feel cynical, but is instead orientated towards furthering a sustainable conversation in fashion.
Serre is not a naturally optimistic person – her last two shows had a sense of post-apocalyptic urgency about them, conjuring a world where we need to cover our bodies due to Radiation (AW19) and survive a Marée Noire (SS20), or oil slick. She didn’t announce doomsday, though – instead of issues, she presented solutions in the form of garments and techniques. “Most of the time, I need to pass a very down point to get to a really up point that I then bring to the show. I can be really depressed but then I have a lot of energy, so I always find a path. If it’s the good or the wrong one, I don’t know, but at least it’s something that we make together and that will bring us to the next point.”
Despite being very much forward-looking (Futurewear is the unofficial tagline for her brand), Serre is reluctant to predict her own future. When asked if she would ever take on a role as a creative lead of a big fashion house, she responds: “What is most important for me is really freedom. So if one day a big house can give me total freedom, I will go. But I doubt they could do so.”
Collage by Patrick Waugh. Taken from Issue 64 – BEST, FOOT, FORWARD – which is on newsstands now.