Marine Serre‘s dynamic autumn-winter 2022 collection made me realise she would do great at rejuvenating the Vivienne Westwood brand. Why? First, her devotion to upcycling, which has inspired the entire industry, goes in line with Westwood’s sustainability ethos. Second, the Parisian designer has that rough, defiant style that is real and keeps evolving with every season. And third: the way Serre used tartan checks (all from upcycled scarves and deadstock materials!) this season makes me think of some of the greatest 1990s collections coming from Vivienne.
Now back to Marine’s latest line-up. The serenity of the Marine Serre show photographs completely belie the mayhem of what was happening two floors below. Suffice it to say that young people in Paris will scramble and wait, packed uncomfortably together, to witness whatever Serre will do. It felt almost like a throwback to the hysteria of the underground French fashion scene that swirled around the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Martin Margiela and Xuly.Bët two decades ago. If Serre is a female inheritor of what male designers did to deconstruct and democratize Paris fashion once upon a time, the big difference is how she delves far deeper into cultural and environmental ethics. Challenging the form of the fashion show is part of that. “What was important was to open the boundaries,” she said. “To show a different way to do a show. It was important to me that it was in a museum, to have something that shows the collective imagination. And to have something where people weren’t sure if there were going to be people walking, or where to sit or look.” The “museum” was a gallery of re-mastered old masters on the top floor. Each of them variously redirected, decolonized and replaced the original iconography to link up with Serre’s work. The first looks of the show were series of black and white lozenge and crescent-moon patterned recycled wool jacquard tailoring – they looked chic and polished. More themes came through: the above mentioned tartan scarves patchworked into tweed coats, collaged upcycled knits. Toile de Jouy quilted bed clothes and camouflage prints were turned into neatly-finished, attractive clothing. Serre is clearly focused on proving there’s nothing rough-and-ready about the second life she’s giving to pieces of defunct garments or deadstock. She’s intent on sharing how she does this. The need for transparency and education are other parts of her impressive worldview and drive to accelerate change in her generation. On the first floor of the building she had installed an atelier with members of her teams of sorters, cutters and sewers at work, demonstrating how her pieces are made. “I feel I have a responsibility to give access to this savoir faire,” she said, preternaturally calm in the eye of the swirling storm of guests. All weekend, she was planning to open the doors of the installations and exhibition to the public. “For free, you know?”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.