PARIS — The guests are sitting outside on a wide elevated walkway with a grassy strip of public parkland on one side and the scruff of train tracks and industrial detritus on the other. The sky is blue, the air is crisp, and the voice of a strange man is whispering creepy nothings. That is the soundtrack announcing the start of Marine Serre’s spring 2019 runway show, a focused and mesmerizing riff on auto racing, sport, haute couture, sustainability, pragmatism and all the ways in which fashion can be inventive and strange and wonderful.
Marine Serre is wonderful.
Unless one happens to be a close follower of the LVMH Prize, which scouts talent across the globe and which Serre won in 2017, or happens to be the sort of shopper who digs through the fashion weeds for that one great find, it’s unlikely that her name rings a bell. But she is a designer who merges all the elements that soothsayers believe will define fashion for the next generation of luxury consumers. And she does it seemingly with ease.
Her clothes elevate athletic wear. It’s body-conscious and multi-functional. She is idiosyncratic in her creativity. Sustainability is part of her brand’s design philosophy and to drive home the point she often up-cycles materials — reusing old scuba suits as the fabric for full-length dress, for example.
Her earliest collections explored the relationship between Muslim communities and the West, and one of her signature pieces is a bodysuit adorned with a crescent moon.
A millennial woman at the head of her own label, Serre is the epitome of the 21st century designer. Spring 2019 is only her second runway show and fourth collection — and that’s if you count her graduation collection from La Cambre Mode in Brussels. Serre makes fashion look deceptively easy. She is playing with so many of the notions that have obsessed other designers of her generation and also flummoxed them. She has figured out how to move street style forward without disconnecting it from its roots. Her models, looking cleaned up and polished but not in the least bit glossy, strolled along in flight jackets and jumpsuits, carrying clear plastic embossed bags filled with fruit and snacks, as if they’d made a pitstop at the local market while en route to the runway. Her show included men and women, a child and a baby, and she dressed them all in her aesthetic, whether in recycled denim, a flame-printed mini-dress or tights-covered sneakers that she created in collaboration with Nike.
Her version of haute couture includes a long khaki dress crafted from old survival jackets and a beautifully draped evening gown stitched together from old football jerseys. The clothes have a gimmick and a stance. But that’s secondary to the fact that they all strike a visceral note of desire. They are great.
Other designers have similar ideas, but Serre stands out because she has the technical craftsmanship to make her fantasies a reality. She has the ability to make a gown cut from old T-shirts look as though it was rendered with the same care that the petites mains of couture would give to a Lesage-embroidered ballgown.
Serre has carefully divided her eponymous line into four parts. One is devoted to avant-garde experimentation, another is focused on using recycled materials, a third is best described as creative ready-to-wear, and the most recent is her version of couture — free-wheeling, creative garments wholly constructed from recycled goods.
She has thought through the mission of her brand and how she will execute it. Hers is a collection that speaks to a future far beyond the next season — a future in which fashion not just will matter but will be essential.
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