Sustainable design’s new maverick, Marine Serre.
“The moon has gone viral. I wasn’t expecting that,” says French designer Marine Serre. The 26-year-old isn’t talking about planetary health (or lack thereof), despite being among those challenging the fashion industry’s view of sustainability. Serre is referring to the crescent logo that has come to signify the brand she launched in 2O16, appearing as prints and discreet motifs on bodysuits and bias-cut silk dresses worn by Rihanna and Cate Blanchett.
Sustainability is implicit in what Serre does, with repurposed fabrics (from vintage silks to gym balls) making up a third of her A/W 18-19 collection. “But I don’t use that word,” she says. “It’s more about inventing and rethinking production. It’s also about making sustainable practices so normal they don’t distract from the fact these are great clothes. At the end of the day, I want to show you something you really desire.”
Serre’s A/W 18-19 collection – the first following her LVMH Prize win in 2O17 – is a pragmatic response to the challenges of everyday life. Denim and safari jackets come with removable sleeves and concealed pockets (big enough to carry a phone, lip balm and purse, removing the need for a bag). “So you can be practical and quick; you can get things done.” There’s also form-fitting lycra and unfussy clothes that wouldn’t look out of place on a milk run. But then Serre throws motorcycle leathers and trailing silks on top of those moon-print base layers, because this isn’t just about function; it’s fashion. “Fashion with no bullshit,” she laughs.
There’s an upbeat radicalism to Serre’s style. She isn’t criticising fashion, especially since she’s worked for some of the industry’s biggest brands: Alexander Mcqueen, Maison Margiela, Dior by Raf Simons and Balenciaga. It was during this time, following her studies at Belgium’s prestigious L’école de la Cambre, she developed the craft skills that enabled her to execute those technical garments with such ease. “The big houses shaped me and made me think about volume and attitude,” she says. Her granddad’s work with antiques also instilled in her an appreciation of used materials. “I’ve grown up looking at things that seem like they have no value.”
Serre intends to pursue new means of production with her next collection. “I’d like to explore new fabrics, because ‘Futurewear’ [the motto printed on her clothing] is about asking questions in order to move forward – what we should change.” And change, she says, starts with young designers circumventing the system and forging their own paths. “Big houses are iconic, with a huge history. But it’s 2O18. We have a lot of different ways to become iconic.” And for Serre, pushing the boundaries of sustainable production is one of them.
“I WANT TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING YOU REALLY DESIRE”