Upcycled & Defiant. Marine Serre AW22

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.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Fichu Pour Fichu. Marine Serre SS22

For the spring-summer 2022 collection entitled Fichu pour Fichu (“We are doomed”), Marine Serre pushes further her eco-conscious approach to fashion. Inspired by the ongoing state of flux the world is experiencing, the line-up focuses on reconnecting with others and our surroundings, and leading a life without the feeling of loneliness that comes with isolation. Accompanying the sustainable pieces, this season Serre delved even deeper into the power of film with Ostal24, a 13-minute short that transports us through interior and exterior worlds that could be situated somewhere in the past, present, or future. The title Ostal24, which means “house” in Occitan – a historical language spoken in Serre’s native region – grew from her belief that through sincere engagement with our primal instincts, we can create a sense of home wherever life takes us. “The most important thing for me is what people feel when they see Ostal24 rather than what they think,” Serre says. “I want people to feel the beauty and the simplicity of being together and finding joy in cooking, eating, dancing, yoga. And at the same time recognize that everyday we make choices that have an impact, so how can we be more responsible in the decisions we make? Fashion is about more than draping fabric and making a profit, it can be a place where we are free to take meaningful action.” And yes – those looks are made of upcycled towels and discloth!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Into The Groove. CDLM SS22

New York Fashion Week is on! And it’s real. What a joy to see the young designers back on the runway. CDLM‘s spring-summer 2022 line-up is a good start. Held at the James Fuentes Gallery on the Lower East Side, the label’s designer, Chris Peters, delivered a post-lockdown vision of a night-out wardrobe. Romantic, frayed, messy, and intoxicating vision of what can go right and, what the hell, what sometimes goes a bit wrong, but in the end, what makes something a beautiful reminder of all the possibilities of life between dusk and dawn. And the emphasis here is on hands: Peters made most of these clothes himself, using whatever was around, or out of pieces of things he has lovingly collected, then given a second life. Take, for instance, the poetically dulled gleam from a top made up of patching together pieces of a 19th century Indian tapestry, worn with black satin evening trousers whose perfection of cut pursued an idea of anti-fit; a little off, a lot cool. “A trouser which feels quite sexy, which has attitude,” is how he put it. Another case in point: The deadstock floral fabric radically transformed when used for a pair of low slung jeans. Elsewhere, that adorned top and minimal-glam trouser combo came in the form of a draped tank made from unused tulle from the ’50s, its athletic shape blown apart by the swoosh of an ostrich feather, a recurring motif, partnered with straight-cut anyone-can-wear-’em pants. Other times, the shirt was the focus: a white cotton tux version over a second-skin tubular dress, or a deconstructed style in a washed, faded black, wrapped and draped and twisted around the body. But sometimes the eye would be wrested away from the clothes, and look at the adornments: the crochet garland scarfs, or the entanglement of delicate chain necklaces. For Peters, the question, he said, was where does the clothing stop and the ornamentation start? As he remarked, “You can wear one of the garlands with your t-shirt. That’s your gown.” What he is doing is opening up the conversation to create things that don’t just exist in a vacuum, but can be in conversation with what you already own, and wear, and love to death. Pieces which can, in other words, do the thing we’re learning to do again: socialize.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Wasteless Fashion Is Not A Myth. Duran Lantink AW21

They say that fashion will never be 100% sustainable. A brand can do its best to keep things eco-friendly, but in the end, clothes are still being produced. But Duran Lantink‘s method proves the industry that there’s a revolutionary (and very witty) way of making fashion as wasteless as possible. His upcycling methods – repurposing unsold designer-label clothes in his pioneering, cheeky way – date back to 2013, but only now seem to fully resonate with a wider audience. Autumn-winter 2021 season is the designer’s first (of course digital) fashion show collection. “Basically, during lockdown, I had time to work with my assistant, Thibault, on all the materials I had left over from collaborations with stores and brands, and to come up with this, our first runway collection.” Thibault is in the show, wearing, in one of his exits, a swishing lemon yellow dress that is reconstructed from another dress which had been left over from Lantink’s collaboration with Ellery last year. The point was to give him free rein to recycle and give new life to their unsold inventory. Lantink pointed out to Vogue how he’s unpicked, restyled, and refashioned multiple piles of clothes lying around his studio which “used to be” garments by Balmain, Balenciaga, Prada, Proenza Schouler, Vetements, Marine Serre, and many more. “In the beginning, we started with stores to see how we could work with their deadstock to see how we could stop their clothes going into landfill. And that was the beginning of thinking how we could create a completely new form of business.” The collection is like an aethetical 2000s-style remix of sexy revealing, sparkle and sharp minimalism. There’s a zigzaggy sparkly dress – one breast out – remade from something unsold from Balmain, and naked illusion half-dresses sewn onto stretchy body pieces. A flash of a diamanté thong (made from recycled materials) is homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci 1997 moment, but with a Duran Lantink logo planted in the crucial place. Yet Lantink has also now come up with an ingenious plan for extending the buzzy fashion “moment” so that it can morph into potentially infinite new shapes for his followers. He announced the launch of a service on his new direct-to-wearer website. “When you’re fed up with something, you can click on two tabs. One, where you can resell. On the other, we will work with you to remake what you have to become whatever you like. So a coat can become a dress. A dress can become a shirt. A shirt can be trousers. Whatever you want!” People who are up for engaging with Lantink’s process are destined to be the happy recipients of fully documented online records of where their clothes originated, and how they’ve been altered over time: a personalized archive. That redefinition of being able to love and re-love clothes in a never-ending cycle restyled by a designer is something truly, truly innovative.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Core. Marine Serre AW21

Digital Paris Fashion Week started today, and it hit off with Marine Serre‘s “Core” collections. We’ve got used to Serre’s dystopian visions, which appeared to be ironically precise (she pioneered face masks on the runway seasons ago…). However, her autumn-winter 2021 line-up is all about optymism and hope. The collection wasn’t heralded by a shallow short movie,  but by a website, http://www.marineserrecore.com, which went live at her regular spot on the Paris schedule. The website is a chronicle of all that goes into her designs, and ergo her view of the world, as much as it is a reveal of her new offering and a joyful, life-affirming celebration of family, friends, and community. “Core means the core of the brand, in much the same way as the idea of the core of a computer,” Serre said during a preview. “It’s all of the memory; how everything connects. Pragmatically,” she went on to say, “it’s been three years since we began. We’ve been doing a lot, being an extremely creative brand; we felt the urge to talk, ring the bell, raise the alarm, and reflect that in what we’ve created. This is maybe another moment. An opportunity to look at the interesting processes we’ve put in place; to really think about the garments and the materials we make them from – the transformation of those is really part of our creativity.” The collection is essentially a blueprint of all that Serre has accomplished since she launched the label, filled with her signatures. It’s also a pretty breathtaking and brilliant statement of what can be achieved in the space of three short years; what can emerge when you harness talent with a clear sense of purpose and convictions about what constitutes your values.

There are plenty of Serre’s upcycled silk scarves, draped around sinuous black dresses, which have been accessorized with talismanic metal belts and petite chain-strap bags, while other scarves have been worked into tunics and tees. Deadstock leather in shades of black, tan, and brown is graphically patched, with an anthropomorphic feel into blazers with squared-off shoulders, biker pants, and jeans-style jackets, sometimes layered up with short dresses created out of antique tablecloths. And the now iconic crescent-moon-motif-embellished bodysuits and regenerated denim or else was mixed with more hybridity in the form of sweaters and dresses collaged out of upcycled knits. All of this was shot on a terrific cross-generational cast of characters, kids included. “It was interesting to revise what we’d already done,” said Serre. “Basically the goal was to bring more real life to our design process, to bring garments into daily life.” Her solution was to ask the team to try things on, give their feedback, then modify to make everything more relatable. The website also houses a charming series of depictions of those within the extended Serre label family, wearing a few of the pieces, and engaged with their routines. “Cooking, spending time with your mother, in the garden, playing with your dog…pleasures which are simple,” said Serre, describing the scenes. “Fashion has always been about a dream, and I don’t like that. Here, fashion is the last thing you see. What you see first are the people.” Serre’s thinking about the site is akin to the way she thinks about her designs. Visit, spend time, come back, visit again, get to know what something means and what it stands for. Nothing should ever be fleeting, or disposable, gone in the blink of an eye.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.