Marine Serre has quite the community around her. I haven’t been to a Serre show since 2019, and a massive group of young people created a crush at the door to get inside her show, most of them wearing some of her signature upcycled gear, moon print-embossed leather jackets and jeans, her floral print popcorn tops, and her old T-shirts masterfully reconstructed into va-va-voom dresses.
Serre is the designer most responsible for making upcycling a current buzzword, and she takes leaps forward in her processes with every collection, working with factories and her production team to improve the sophistication of her garments and lower the prices of her luxury clothes. I don’t know if people appreciate how difficult it is to upcycle clothing, especially if you plan to sell a number of pieces: she begins her collection not with a mood or a concept for the season, but by seeing what materials are available for her trouser, skirt, and dress shapes. This season, she found a few blue bedspreads in Provencal floral, but only had enough to make a few dozen pieces, like a corset top and a cave-like Cristobal Balenciaga-ish hooded top; on the other hand, there was a ton of tartan, so the first third of the show featured variations on skirts, kilts, jackets, and dresses in fringed plaid.
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Our sense of French culture, especially in fashion, doesn’t really constitute anything underground or alternative; the “French girl style” cliches still dominate. But Serre has demonstrated, with her clothes and growing legion of fans, that an authentic subculture of fashion and style exists here, and has the potential for global reach. Her vision of our world is not as nihilist as Vetements or as dystopian as Balenciaga, but has a softness, a kind of faithful and fearless spark, that elevates it into something . As the notes for her Galeries Lafayette show read, “It is not an invitation to dream or to escape, but rather to reunite ourselves with the here-and-now with empathy, awareness, and joy.” If other brands that upcycle, or even categorize themselves as sustainable, seek to polish the edges off a difficult world by creating something effortless that pushes away the wasteful horrors of the world, Serre’s philosophical approach demands that we sit with our reality and the waste it has created, transforming it into something that can give us hope.
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US