As freak warm weather sent pollution — and pollen — levels in Paris soaring, it seemed only fitting that Marine Serre showed a third of her designs with some sort of protective mask.
Climate change is happening, and it won’t be long before we’re hunkering underground for shelter, she suggested. To drive home the point, Serre staged her show in a wine cellar in the Paris suburbs that was tricked out with laser lights and smoke machines, in a disquieting cross between a nightclub and a bunker.
“This show was a kind of dream or, I don’t know, a kind of reverie on the future, and then the idea was that it would be an apocalypse,” she said backstage. “This girl will be the girl from 2050 that survived.”
The designer’s response was to double down on the upcycling approach that is core to the brand: she said more than half the looks used recycled elements. Some were obvious, like the vintage jewelry that jangled on a black Lycra dress attached to a balaclava mask. Others weren’t, like the jeans covered in her signature crescent motif.
Some of her favorite ideas were reused, too. The scarf dresses and full-coverage bodysuits will be familiar by now to those who have followed her fledgling career — though it bears reminding this was only her third collection.
The focus on tailoring was new. There were fitted jackets and coats, including a red tartan skirt suit that channeled Jean Paul Gaultier in the Eighties — only this one came with a matching pollution mask. Serre also presented some interesting variations on parkas and puffer jackets, their trim waists set off with demonstrative sleeves trimmed with fake fur.
Yet there was a sense that the brand has reached a crossroads. While aesthetic continuity makes sense in the context of sustainable production, no one has really cracked the problem of how to scale up a brand that relies on vintage or deadstock material. It’s a challenge Serre grapples with daily.
“That’s the hardest part of my work today: it’s not to create, but it’s to produce the things you want to create properly,” she said, noting that she manufactured 2,000 pieces in her first season and 10,000 pieces last season.
“Most of the team is working on that side, actually: keep upcycling and do it in a good way, without putting your creation away, and also with making it look perfect in store, so that’s quite a challenge,” she said with a rueful laugh. The industry will be watching closely to see how she does it.