First published by Vogue Arabia in early Spring 2017. Marine Serre was announced as the winner of the LVMH Prize on June 16th 2017.
The diminutive Marine Serre may only be 1.51cm in height, but the French designer’s enormous talent has already garnered her several tall orders. At the LVMH Prize presentation in March, when presenting her graduate collection “A Call for Radical Love,” the designer told Vogue Arabia that the collection had been ordered so many times that she will decline orders to maintain the quality. Along with Serre, the other finalists for the prestigious prize include Syria’s Nabil El-Nayal (Nabil Nayal), Yoon Ahn (Ambush), Kozaburo Akasaka (Kozaburo), Cecilie Rosted Bahnsen (Cecilie Bahnsen), Molly Goddard, Maria Kazakova (Jahnkoy), and Antonin Tron (Atlein).
“It’s my first collection, and all the attention is so surprising,” says Serre in perfect English with only a hint of a French accent. The 25-year-old says her path to fashion design was unexpected, but that this is perhaps the essence of her fresh aesthetic, which can be described as a mash-up of sportswear meets Arab-dress, infused with a punchy colorblock palette. Born to a family not involved in the arts, Serre grew up in the provincial, midwestern region of Corrèze, France, playing sports. “Mainly a lot of tennis,” she says. “I countered my tomboy ways by dressing up in my grandmother’s vintage dresses and my mother’s clothing. Because of my height, I always had to cut my pants; that was probably my first foray into fashion.” Serre went to art school before moving to Marseille and then enrolling in fashion school (she later attended the prestigious La Cambre school in Belgium). She says it was her experience in Marseille that gave her the freedom to explore her unique vision. “I started learning about fashion in a northern suburb of Marseille – that isn’t exactly Paris,” she says. “There was no fashion scene, but that’s where I met a lot of amazing people who opened my mind to new things – not just fashion. Then, in Brussels I met many Arab Europeans. This collection aims to grasp that presence. There are references, but I am looking at the collection from a daily, contemporary life aesthetic. The idea is not to bring the past to the present, but rather to understand the past to make a future reference.” Internships with Balenciaga under Demna Gvasalia; Dior under Raf Simons; Maison Martin Margiela under Matthieu Blazy; and Alexander McQueen under Sarah Burton followed, where she learned “how to process an idea, make a collection, and learn how to sell it.”
Observing Serre’s collection, I ask her if she is concerned that people might accuse her of appropriating the crescent moon (considered by many to be a symbol of Islam) and turning it into a sport logo – as it is featured in the same way Nike and Adidas use theirs on headbands, and brandished across clothes. “Yes, I was,” she says. “However, this is about making a beautiful reference and the intention to make a collection for a future in which we can all be together. I asked many people – including Arabs – how they felt and people liked it.”
Up next, the designer will compete in the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography this month before making her final bid for the LVMH Prize in June.
See the full Marine Serre Fall 2017 collection here. Available at all Dover Street Market stores this September.
Next: Go Inside Vogue Arabia’s April Power issue