While we often talk about runway shows in terms of ‘venue’ and ‘looks’, for Marine Serre Spring/Summer 2021, the initiated come prepared to use language as ‘world’ and ‘characters’.

This time, as Europe’s Covid-19 cases are back on the rise, we watched and waited with bated breath as the industry decided on the how and what of this brave new fashion week format. After a hopeful grace period since France came out of its tough three-month lockdown in May this year, daily cases in France have been growing exponentially, now with daily cases exceeding a staggering 15,000. The French government has made mask-wearing mandatory throughout the nation, and a 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants has been imposed just this week, perhaps foreshadowing the prospect of a new lockdown. 

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Marine Serre Spring Summer 2021
Collage by Beige Pill Productions

As a pointed comment on the context in which we find ourselves this season, Marine Serre is one brand that has opted for a fully digital show. This would be the first time since the brand’s debut at Paris Fashion Week that they will not be setting the tone as the first morning physical show of the week. 

Serre is never known to be conventional, and the fully produced cinematic video is presented with video game-esque elements. As models (read: characters) appear on the scene, their avatar ‘cards’ appear over the screen, identifying them by their names and their alter egos. Clicking on these ‘cards’ reveals details of the look, and the option to save and share. 

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Serre’s runway shows are always cryptic, to say the least and this digital presentation is no different — it had us perplexed right from the beginning. The story begins in a cold and unnerving operation room-like scene, where the androgynous test subject known as ‘Res’ (by Juliet Merie, French artist, and close friend and collaborator of Serre) lies naked on an operating table. Around her are the ‘surgeons’, dressed impeccably in Serre’s sharp tailoring. A tool is selected, and Res is tattooed head to toe in the brand’s signature moon logo print. 

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The thematic ‘moon lozenge’ print has been habitually reinvented each season. For spring summer 21, its new incarnation is used extensively in jacquard weave tailored separates, her signature stockings, gloves and bodysuits as well as the new Covid proof masks and face shields. Serre is a master at banishing traditional clothing archetypes, with masterful tailoring juxtaposing functional, utilitarian separates decked in many pockets and metal hardware, made in biodegradable nylon and recycled moire. There was also experimentation with new silhouettes, like a sculptural dress inspired by the shape and patterns of the nautilus, and Iranian-Dutch singer Sevdaliza’s crinoline skirt constructed from harnesses and clips.  

As Res makes her fantastical journey through scenes populated by ninjas, desert sharmans, and sea-dwelling hybrids, she meets the co-protagonist of this story, immediately recognisable as avant-garde Sevdaliza. It may surprise no one to see Sevdaliza immersed like a native inhabitant in these surrealist surroundings. The songwriter and producer has become world renowned for her musical style and trippy videos that centre around topics of womanhood, identity and motherhood. Just as Sevdaliza often portrays herself in her own music videos as half human and half divine, one scene sees her suspended above a congregation, her title reading ‘icon’. 

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This is a seemingly bewildering landscape with no rhyme or reason, and a shade darker than the brand’s previous season motifs, a somewhat brighter message can be deduced here. Of course, the mainstays of French couture shapes, eco-futurism and the invention of a new culture from the vestiges of human experience, are ever present. The spring summer 2021 collection’s name ‘AMOR FATI’, is a reference to the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Nietzsche is known for his proposition of ‘eternal recurrence’, where the universe, and our lives are recurring cyclically, and therefore are predetermined. If we are to accept this prospect, then we may choose to become Amor Fati, which, in Latin translates to ‘Lover of Fate’. 

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Given all the turmoil that has characterised 2020, Serre is suggesting the choice of a different state of mind. Rather than to regret, lament and deny what we perceive to be the bad things that happen in our lives, we can learn to love and appreciate both the good and bad in equal measure as part of an unchangeable reality. For it is the trials and tribulations of our lives which create the starkest relief for appreciating the joys. 

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