Marine Serre gives regenerated fashion masterclass at Paris Fashion Week
French designer Marine Serre, whose commitment to sustainable fashion is increasingly her hallmark, plunged her audience into the heart of her design and production process on the second day of Paris Fashion Week. Serre has jettisoned her post-apocalyptic mood and a traditional video presentation format, allowing the public to become directly involved with her label thanks to a website where multiple windows show how Serre works, and the different facets of ‘Core’, her Fall/Winter 2021-22 collection.
Rather than a minutes-long video, the site is a complete digital experience viewers are able to enjoy at their own leisure on their devices. “Do people understand regenerated garments? Does anyone imagine the work that goes into them?” Serre asked herself. This year, the designer has overhauled her entire methodology, “working on practicality, comfort, volumes and pricing,” in order to cut costs and make her collection more accessible.
The collection summarises the codes and fundamental identity of Serre’s label, launched in 2016, doing so through 50 looks worn in their daily lives by Serre’s tribe and her muses, among them Belgian artist-model Kristina De Coninck, and featured in seven short films shot in different settings.
The collection consists of 12 chapters and materials, each with its own explanatory film, taking viewers on a long journey through factories, warehouses and ateliers, and following the thread of fabric and garment manufacturing in Europe, from eastern European countries to Portugal, France and Italy.
Serre fashions her creations out of an inexhaustible supply of used clothes, from mountains of head scarves to giant bales of jeans, cartfuls of sweaters, trolleys filled with t-shirts, sacks overflowing with bedspreads. Once painstakingly sorted by type and colour, the garments are disassembled and stitched back together to create new models looking like clever patchwork or complex puzzles.
The silk scarves Serre has been hoarding forever “end up as dresses, both loose and graceful.” Leather that “is no longer used but lasts for ages” is cut in swathes and reassembled under the viewers’ eyes to make jackets, trousers and dresses. The same goes for old tartan scarves and throws “saved from oblivion,” regenerated and mixed with jersey fabric to acquire a new lease of life as long-sleeved tops and hybrid kilts.
The collection’s denim items are made exclusively using old jeans, with cotton the only other material allowed. Once re-dyed and re-treated, they come back to life as new. Serre has also scouted local markets for fluffy or quilted bedspreads, even tasselled ones, whose oversize, slightly kitsch flowery patterns find new purpose in maxi skirts and zipped tops.
The designer has a fascination for the humble t-shirt, a garment that, with its prints, logos and sundry designs often bears witness to special occasions. T-shirts are first arranged by colour, then minutely inspected by Serre, who picks and cuts out the most inspirational designs to repurpose them her own way. “Needing careful, consistent placing, and the deliberate inlaying of printed patterns,” a multiplicity of images and cotton fabric cuts blend together into draped dresses.
Knitwear too is susceptible to “all kinds of experiments, with interlaced threads, juxtaposed stitching and a geography of patterns spawning unique fusions and imaginative associations,” producing original knitted dresses and novel sweaters.
Period home linen, perhaps lying forgotten in an attic, yields more unexpected treasures. Crocheted tablecloths, curtains, tea-towels, doilies, bed sheets, pillow cases in linen or white cotton, often lace-trimmed and sometimes dotted with floral motifs, not to mention nightgowns: everything can be regenerated. A length of lace can be cut here, an embroidered patch there, tassels elsewhere. Details that are then stitched on to collars, sleeves or other specific garment areas, creating amazing frilled dresses mixing sheer and opaque fabrics.
Carpets from all over the world, as well as napkins and brocaded or jacquard tablecloths, their ends sometimes frayed, are “genuine garment material, concealing neither their grain nor their artisanal provenance,” and are ideal for tailoring a doublet or revamping a pair of trousers or a dress. Carpets are regenerated first, boiled at length in a dark dye cauldron.
Half of Serre's collection is made using upcycled garments, while the rest is produced with fabrics made from recycled yarn. For the suits and tailored items, the designer commissioned dark wool and cotton fabrics with a lozenge pattern, turning her signature moon motif into a geometric icon. She has also fashioned sport jackets, trousers and miniskirts in black or lilac moire, “my very own nylon,” as she calls it. From early on, moire has been one of Serre’s favourite fabrics, highly appreciated for “its plaited threads creating a psychedelic effect, so special to the touch and with such an easy shine.”
Serre’s “eco-futuristic” wardrobe is completed by a multi-pocket beige twill utility jacket, full of quirky detailing with its zips, assorted pockets of the patch, over-stitched, flap and bellows variety, with strips and pouches for holding pen, flask, wallet, phone and notebook, not to mention a key chain and a mini pocket housing hydro-alcoholic hand sanitizer.
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