Meet Marine Serre, The Radical Face of Style's Future

The LVMH Prize winner talks FutureWear and her brand of utilitarian luxury ahead of the opening of an installation at Dover Street Market

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LVMH

There were a lot of small crescent moons in street style shots from the AW18 shows - red, black, as full sleeve prints or a discreetly placed logo. Fittingly cult-like when you consider the following that , the designer behind the motif, has quickly amassed.

You'll no doubt know of Nicolas Ghesquière, the creative director of Louis Vuitton, Phoebe Philo of Céline, and Karl Lagerfeld. Well, know that they're watching Marine Serre, having awarded her last year's €300,000 fund.

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A year later and Serre is making a mark, putting her investment to good use with her first runway show in Paris, and boundary-pushing techniques as she seeks to challenge our staid view of sustainability. She's also making her brand values clear with a number of international pop-ups, taking over retail spaces in China, London and Paris.

is the latest store to feature an installation designed by Serre and close collaborator, . And they were among the first to support Serre, picking up her first collection in AW17. 'I chose to champion Marine so early on simply because she has incredible talent,' said Adrian Joffe, President of the internationally renowned store. 'She has an incredibly strong vision.'

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You can see the broad appeal of Serre's work. Her aesthetic is deeply rooted in the past, with baroque printed silks sourced from Moroccan markets. But her work is fundamentally modern, with a radicalism that sees crescent moon ski masks and sportswear layered beneath classic drapery and easy-to-wear separates.

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Serre's avant garde take on the antique, and strident futurism is evident in the Dover Street Market installation - industrial vitrines upon which her more traditionally feminine silks hang.

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FutureWear was printed on pieces shown in Paris earlier this month, and what that means is providing solutions to problems for both the fashion industry and wearer. So denim and safari jackets come with concealed pockets and removable sleeves (technically a three-for-one deal, those pockets seeing no need for a handbag). And sustainability is important, but it's implicit in how she works, rather than a grand statement (along with the vintage scarves, her handbags are repurposed gym balls).

It also looks great. You can see telltale signs of her experience at Dior with the cinched waist of a bar jacket, and the laissez faire luxe of Demna Gvsalia's Balenciaga. It's cool - made to look effortless.

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In simplest terms, Marine is a designer of her time - a 26 year old woman doing away with labels and just… doing, seeing running a brand as a pragmatic response to fashion's unsustainable habits, and design as an opportunity to innovate.

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We spoke to Marine ahead of setting up her SS18 installation at Dover Street Market, to discuss FutureWear and her brand of utilitarian luxury.

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How's everything been since Paris Style Week?

Really good, and so much has happened, it's crazy. We've been setting up the showroom, selling, and doing interviews, and I'm going to China in three days, and setting up an exhibition in Dover Street Market. I've not had so much time to sleep! But it's been really nice.

What's happening in China?

We're touring Dover Street Market over there. We're going to China first, but then going to Dover Street Market I.T in Singapore, where we've got a new space displaying our SS18 collection.

So you're physically travelling to every space to set up the installations?

Not everywhere, because it's super busy. I can't be in Manchester unfortunately. But yeah, it is always important for me to be hands on. We're a really young brand, so I think I'm so used to doing everything myself - from hanging to installing.

This is a bit different, as I'm working with my friend Tanguy Poujol, and other friends, and it's super nice that we can brainstorm together and work together. I'm getting used to working as a bigger team since we've grown, and after the LVMH Prize and everything.

How have you worked together on these installations?

Tanguy is who I worked closest with on the idea. I love the freedom that Dover Street Market have given us. It's amazing, because anyone who doesn't about our world, and what we do, they can really get a sense of that by having this experience in the store.

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You don't see the kind of installations that Dover Street Market have in many other places. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to really give their clients the Marine Serre experience.

What do you people to take from their experience of the installations?

I don't know if there's one particular thing I want to say, like 'this season, the collection is about this or that.' It's broader. And about the way we think. The iron bars are really simple and cheap, and it's a great frame for what's inside - the garments. Like seeing that the foundation of something can be simple or old, but you can build something great from that.

It's also the first degree of building something - those bars. It's quite literal. So a nice metaphor for us building the brand!

When you talk about your brand, you often reference this idea of being radical. What does that mean to you?

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Going to the end - the full extent. Whether it's pushing yourself with an installation or a dress. If you really want to do your job, you should always take it to the furthest extent.

Is that difficult when you know that you've taken it as far as you can, but are committed to pushing it further each season?

Yeah, it's quite a challenge. Especially now as more people are looking at us, and able to see us. It's challenging - for everyone, not just for me. I also think that to be radical, you need to stay calm, and it's difficult when everything moves so fast.

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We thought maybe the first runway collection would be the hardest, but maybe not!

Especially when all eyes are on you after winning the LVMH Prize. Do you feel under pressure to prove yourself, and show signs of that investment as soon as possible?

It's difficult. But I'm focused on building a team - we have 10 people now - and working as a team makes things more manageable for everyone. I can't build a brand if the core of isn't right, and if I don't have right team. It was important for the team to feel right, and then focus on production, making sure that everything was made as we wanted.

Do you feel like you have that foundation in place now?

Yeah, definitely. It takes time, and it's more important for me to have that foundation in place. Each season, we only have 6 months, and this is the beginning for us, but we've made huge jumps with our last collection.

I'm really happy though. We found the right factories, we work well together, and more than 30% of our AW18 collection is totally recycled.

30%? Did you find that challenging?

It's worth it. The scarves that we use for the dresses, the shirts, the handbags - those are old gym balls - it's worth it to show that 'sustainable' doesn't have to look a certain way.

Hemp shoppers, green and beige...

Yes, and the possibilities are infinite. For the next collection, we want to think about new ways to recycle garments, because using vintage garments or objects that aren't in use anymore isn't the only way to recycle fabric.

Building a brand isn't just about designing a look or a shape. We're trying to make radical small steps with production too. It's difficult as a small brand with a smaller budget. But it's great because we have to be creative to get around that. We're forced to think about things.

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It's difficult to find the time to think about those things.

It is. But I want to respect my own flow, and the flow of the team, so we're not going to make pre-collections. To stay sharp, you really need to take time to think. And no one has time to think today - not just in fashion. Time is a luxury. And something we need to try harder to make more of.

So that's why your AW18 collection was called Manic Soul Machine... What did you mean by that?

The titles come from how we feel at the time, or the stage that we're at. For example, SS18 is called Cornerstone, because we were thinking about building the brand, and building this framework. And now we're at the stage of Manic Soul Machine, haha. We're all a little frantic these days.

And you need different outfits you those three things. We thought about that. Manic - functional clothing for being busy; Soul - clothing for your daily life, free flowing dresses, you and me going to yoga, haha; Machine - this idea of everyday life and working, and where we're at trying to build the brand.

What kinds of things are driving your creativity - who or what are you looking at when you design each collection?

I'm really inspired by people in the street everyday. There's a lot of romanticism and radicalism and practicality out there in the street. In Paris, there are so many types of people and garments, and seeing that makes me think about fashion more than any movies or those kinds of references.

I think about feeling, and everyday life; what feels right right now? I'm also a woman, so I think 'what do I need today when I take the Metro?'

That's why I made the FutureWear jacket with so many pockets. I never go out without a bottle of water, and I thought we needed something for that - to not have to carry a bag. And pockets are made for a reason. It's like we're so used to pockets that we forget they're there for a reason!

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More dresses with pockets, world, please.

Yes! All of our dresses have pockets. Even the most couture dress - the red and white from our collection made of up-cycled shirts - that has pockets. Even if you're on the red carpet, you can have pockets.

You're also thinking of shorter women. It's surprisingly difficult to find clothes that fit short women well.

Yes, clothes for people who aren't super tall - like me. I don't have a muse, and I don't really care about the idea of one woman, so more characters, more feeling good in garments that work on the model, on me.

You can try and get around the issue of designing for different body types if you focus on feeling. It can work if the feeling is there, and you make sure people can wear the clothes and feel good with the fit, or the way the fabric moves. So I think it also works on those smaller people - like me - because of that.

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I saw a lot of the moon print during PFW. What does it mean?

Yes, people seem to have really bought into that! The moon has been attached to my collection for three years - since my first collection. The amazing thing about the moon is that it means something different to everyone. Everyone's familiar with it.

It's one of the most ancient symbols in the world. And I don't want to use my name, I think the logo works better.

It's a symbol that really says 'woman' too - in mythology. I really like that people can interpret it in their own way, and that we can also try and interpret it differently with different prints in the next collections. I've heard so many different interpretations.

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Have any surprised you?

Yes. ! The Japanese manga character. That surprised me. I really enjoy hearing all of those different interpretations.

What does that symbol really mean to you though?

For me, it's also a symbol of love, which is why I really chose it with the first collection. That collection was called Radical Call for Love. The moon is quite timeless too. It's not going anywhere...

So we've had Radical Call for Love, Cornerstones, and Manic Soul Machine as the names for collections. This might be a spoiler alert, but what are you feeling now?

Oh, I don't know yet. I know, but I can't say what will filter into the collection!

What's exciting you right now - personally and professionally?

But right now, I'm excited - about travelling to China and Japan. I've never been there, and that's really nice. It will be nice to just hang out and wander around. I think that will be amazing. I'll think about the rest when I come back.

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