Home - T Singapore

Person To Know: A Fashion Designer Anchored to Vintage Clothing

By Guan Tan

 
Marine Serre
 

"I grew up in a small village," 25-year-old Marine Serre quips. There were "old forgotten stores [where] you could find amazing things. [My fashion] story started like this." 

Serre was awarded fashion's most illustrious LVMH Prize this year. It was 9:00AM in Paris when she picked up my call. Her busyness has multiplied since she won the prize. Serre was munching on her breakfast as she candidly continues, "I never [went] to shops with new garments, it was always vintage or marketplace – in French, [it's] Fripe or Brocante – this thing you have on the streets on weekends selling collectors' stuff."

"I left my parents' rural hamlet to go to art school when I was 13", before moving to Marseille for two years. Serre then enrolled in Brussel's L'École de la Cambre, "So in total, I studied seven years of fashion."

Her penchant for vintage clothes never left her. "You like to dress [up] but for me, it was a passion."

"I think [vintage clothes] anchors me. Appreciation of well-made garments is why I'm making garments... Garments [that are] well constructed [is] something you will find in vintage and not in new garments." To Serre, the exterior aesthetic is not all that matters. It has a tight relationship with the internal constructions. "Everything is interconnected." 

Tanguy PoujolMarine Serre's graduate and Fall Winter 2017 collection, 'A Radical Call For Love'.
Marine Serre's graduate and Fall Winter 2017 collection, 'A Radical Call For Love'.

She then showed her graduate collection, 'A Radical Call For Love' to much acclaim, and went on to apprentice for Dior in Paris, and Alexander McQueen in London, and now Balenciaga in Paris. Going around different cities, and meeting people, Serre recalls, "Soon I realised people really wanted [the graduate] collection, and to buy it. Why should I not go with that? People chose it for me, and I quite like that." 

'A Radical Call For Love' is in fact, never complete. "It kept evolving." Serre designed the collection in her fourth-year at La Cambre, but "it wasn't good enough for me. It was missing something. When I started my fifth year, I knew what I had to do – something sharp, garments that were more professional and sellable." 

"I gave all my time and love to the collection. What people really like in it, is the honesty and directness of the work." When Serre identifies with honesty, she is referring to the clothes, and clothes only – no haughty, intangible and abstract concepts. "All the pieces were fitted on one girl. The girl was a friend of mine, not a model – sometimes smaller and longer." Serre's clothes are not aloof, and not severed from real people on the streets.

Tanguy PoujolMarine Serre's graduate and Fall Winter 2017 collection, 'A Radical Call For Love'.
Marine Serre's graduate and Fall Winter 2017 collection, 'A Radical Call For Love'.

With the mood of her collection and the feelings evoked, Serre was lost for words. "When you see the show it was something really – I don't like the word beauty, but it was a beautiful show." It was a high-strung show, "the attitude was there... the emotions, songs, the looks, the girls... Everything was interconnected and sharp." In the dart board of fashion, it seems as though Serre has hit the bull's eye – a yearning soft spot for genuine emotions and a genuine voice in an exhausted and jaded industry. 

"Today's fashion is a bit flat – not with all designers, but in general. It wasn't like what it was before... We need to just shake things up. This was there I think, and what people enjoyed."

'A Radical Call For Love' has already racked up orders from notable retailers such as Dover Street Market, SSense amongst others. "All of it is made in Belgium, in an atelier I worked with for some time now. I work with difficult pieces, and they are really talented. So the production really needs to be in France or Belgium because [the clothes] are so complex." Serre's construction borrows from the demanding techniques familiar from vintage clothing. 

Marine SerreMarine Serre speaking to Karl Lagerfeld at the LVMH Prize award ceremony Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris on 16 June 2017.
Marine Serre speaking to Karl Lagerfeld at the LVMH Prize award ceremony Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris on 16 June 2017.

Alongside her boyfriend Pepijn van Eeden, and younger sister Justine Serre – a three-person team – Serre in the midst of producing 1000 pieces for delivery in September. Their calibre and pragmatic business sense won the LVMH judges over.

"[One of] the jury said, 'Oh my god! You are 25-years-old and you are doing 1000 pieces, and there are only three in the team!" Serre recounts. The judges tested her on production plans, "Can she really pull this off? Can she really produce this in time?"

Serre has it all charted out. She's clear that she won't make it in time for the upcoming Spring Summer 2018 fashion week in September. "It's too short for us. We cannot produce the collection in two months. We want to do it good, so we decided not to show in September, and decided to do March." Since March this year, Serre has been signed as a designer at Balenciaga. In September she'll set up her atelier in Paris. Her next collection will be Fall Winter 2018 and will show in Paris fashion week.