Last October, the young French designer Marine Serre moved to Paris to take a job at Balenciaga. But, within months, she had gotten more than she bargained for.
In February, unexpectedly, she was among the 21 designers shortlisted for the coveted LVMH Prize, alongside other upstarts like Molly Goddard and Antonin Tron of Atlein. But that wasn't it. Serre was also invited to showcase at the prestigious Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in April.
The flurry of accolades has taken Serre by surprise, as she always assumed her career would be in sports.
“I played tennis, I participated in all these competitions. At the same time, I was doing art,” she said at her home in Paris’s 18th arrondissement during Paris Fashion Week. (All the other LVMH Prize finalists presented their collections to a jury of industry leaders, and Kendall Jenner, last week). “One day I had a car accident, and I thought, 'Ok, what do I actually like in art, and what do I want to do?'”
Serre's existential question already had an answer. She was living in the South of France, and had been experimenting with fashion design on a personal level. Serra is slight of frame, about 5 feet tall, and she was fond of shopping in beloved second hand shops, but everything was just too big.
“Since I was small, I always needed to cut all my pants,” she explained. "And then I decided to study fashion in Marseilles for 2 years.”
That was all the encouragement she needed. Serre took a risk and moved to Brussels, enrolling at La Cambre and studying there for 5 years while also apprenticing for the likes of Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, and Alexander McQueen. Then, last year, Serre presented her first collection, and in what felt like a surprise turn of events for the young designer, she found significant interest. After that first collection, Serre thought, “Ok, dream on. I’m going to have nothing to do anymore. I was not expecting any big success off of that.”
But stores, like H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles and The Broken Arm in Paris, started to take notice. When LMVH asked her to participate in the young designers' prize, which could win her 300,000 euros (or about $316,000), Serre thought she was too small to go for it. But lo and behold, she made the shortlist.
Serre’s fall collection is inspired by 19th century traditional Arabic dress, specifically its volume and silhouette, as well as, curiously, athletic-wear. For her long dresses, she sliced found Arabic fabrics and patchworked them with modern fabrics, giving the overall look a contemporary feel. She has a keen eye for color—something she’d learned from her time with Simons—and applied that to the way she styled the collection. For instance, a well-cut camel coat is worn over a lime green jersey bodysuit, and the jacket’s sleeves are lined in an orange fabric that pops as the wearer moves. The half moon crescent that appears on a number of pieces in this collection is a riff on the idea of a logo. It’s on headbands and shoes, just like a Nike swoosh would be.
It is all moving very fast for someone who just moved to Paris and who just wanted to find a small space for her atelier, instead of having to work out of her apartment. However, there is a lot to look forward to.
“I don’t know exactly what is coming up next,” Serre said smiling, a little bewildered and amused by all the attention this fashion week, “but I do want to just continue doing what I like.”
"Women's Rights Are Human Rights": 62 Fashion Insiders Speak Out in a Powerful Video for International Women's Day