In the Studio With Paris’s New Fashion Darling

The new samples — for Serre’s fall/winter 2018 collection, which she will present this week in Paris as part of her first runway show — are yet to arrive. They’re behind schedule, she says, because she only assembled her team (almost all of whom are older than her) late last year. “Building a team took me a long time. It’s not exactly like a family, but you have to trust the people around you,” she says, “The most important thing was to get the ‘feet’ right before we started to walk, because falling after just one season would not be ideal.”

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Serre sourced around 1,500 vintage silk scarves to use in her fall/winter 2018 collection. Credit Thibault Montamat

While her new collection, which she has titled “Manic Soul Machine,” might be considered her third collection to date (following her graduate collection, and a capsule for spring/summer 2018), Serre sees it as her official debut — a chance to make a statement. “There needs to be hybridity, functionality. It’s about ‘What do we need today?’” she says of the collection. “It’s a lot about how I feel, as a 26-year-old woman, and what I want to say. What is the basis of Marine Serre? We make fashion, but why?”

The answers to those questions began to take shape in her graduate collection — a 13-piece starting point that she titled “Radical Call for Love” and infused with functionality, sportswear tropes and themes of multiculturalism. Designed after the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks, the collection introduced a print starring a crescent moon (commonly associated with Islam) that has since blanketed everything from catsuits to ankle boots. “It’s an official logo now,” Serre says of the motif. Remarkably technical and defined by bold juxtapositions, that graduate collection caught the eye of Demna Gvasalia, of Vetements and Balenciaga, who recruited her to work in the latter’s design studio post-graduation.

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A mix of custom prints and vintage silks make up the fabric swatches from the collection, which she has titled “Manic Soul Machine.” Credit Thibault Montamat

Since branching out on her own, Serre has been mostly concerned with a proposition she calls “Futurewear.” “It’s the idea behind what we do,” she says. She points to a photo of a khaki jacket, pinned to one of the corkboards stacked next to her desk. “What is a jacket today? It’s about being practical, for real life,” she offers. The jacket features a multitude of pockets: there’s one for a water bottle, one for lipstick, and even one to hold a metro pass. It looks like a well-tailored, post-apocalyptic survival kit.

“The utilitarian mood in the collection alludes to this idea of protectionism,” she says, pointing out other everyday styles: a leather biker jacket, which she has toughened up with padding, and a denim jacket with a cinched silhouette modeled on the Dior Bar jacket. “It’s elasticized at the back, so it’s fitted, but you don’t feel restricted,” she says. “I wanted to bring back the feminine shape in outerwear, but I didn’t want to do it in a cute way, at all.”

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Last minute touches with one of Serre’s team members, ahead of the show. Credit Thibault Montamat

This kind of rationale is typical of Serre, who has never shied away from sociopolitical influences. “I think everything is political: the mood is still there, and not for no reason,” she says standing in front of the Polaroids of the collection’s final looks — which she calls a “crescendo” of dresses. They show her love of volume play: fitted bodices adorned with multicolored printed vintage scarves that she has draped to form flared or balloon skirts and even djellabas. She has sourced around 1,500 vintage silk scarves so far and will buy more for production, which means that every style will be unique. “Almost all the fabrics on these styles are recycled and we want to develop this further,” she says, “We’re small, so we are able to do a project like this.”

While her designs are both thoughtful and thought-provoking, Serre is equally comfortable with irony. Familiar sportswear elements are ever-present and it’s clear that she has fun with this. A former pro tennis player (when she was in her teens), she has mined everything from equestrianism to gymnastics (Lycra catsuits festooned with Swarovski crystals) and water sports (wetsuit bodices) for her fall/winter 2018 collection. The bag of the season is even a literal riff on a gymnastic ball: its rubber form, sliced in half, is customized with a vintage scarf that serves as a strap. “We thought, if we do one bag, it should be fun and maybe a little crazy,” Serre says with a grin.

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T City Guides: T Fashion Editors’ Guide to Paris

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EAT (AND DRINK)

French-Japanese Mashups

“By the time I get to Paris, and have been subsisting entirely on pasta and meat, a light meal at either favorite Japanese restaurant is a must: Takara for nigiri (this isn’t light, but the foie gras sushi is much better than it sounds; 14 Rue Molière) and Kunitoraya (5 Rue Villedo).” — JASON RIDER, senior fashion editor

Frenchie

Frenchie Wine Bar

“A great casual add-on to the restaurant Frenchie, which is a favorite, but always packed.” 5 Rue du Nil — ALEXA BRAZILIAN, fashion features director

Iced Coffee Pit Stops

“I’m that annoying American that asks for an iced coffee no matter where I am or what season it is. In Paris, the best are at Telescope (5 Rue Villedo), The Broken Arm (12 Rue Perrée) and Carette. (Theirs is practically a milkshake but still caffeinated!); 4 Place du Trocadéro.) — J.R.

Lone Palm

“In Paris, you mostly drink at bistros (my favorites are Le Progrès or La Perle) but Lone Palm is a really lovely tiki bar, with wonderfully kitschy interior, stronger-than-they-are-sweet drinks and handsome barmen.” 21 Rue Keller — J.R.

Vivant’s chef Pierre Touitou

Vivant

“Speaking of handsome staff, the prize goes to Vivant, Pierre Touitou’s restaurant. Definitely get a seat at the bar for the best view. And Da Graziella next door is a Neapolitan-style pizzeria in an old bird shop from the 1920s and it’s so good. Great natural wines at both.” 43 Rue des Petites Écuries — J.R.

Pho Banh Cuon 14

“Because I can never get good Vietnamese in New York, I also rely on Paris for my quarterly pho. Banh Cuon 14 in the 13th has incredibly clear yet bold broth, served alongside the right herbs (a true anomaly).” 129 Avenue de Choisy — J.R.

Dinner in the Eighth Arrondissement

“Between the Grand Palais and my hotel (Le Bristol) lies Jean-George’s Market restaurant for an easy meal (15 Avenue Matignon), or there’s always La Reserve for something even more French (42 Avenue Gabriel).” — PATRICK LI, creative director

Cafe de l’Esplanade

“En route to the Rodin Museum, lunch at Cafe de l’Esplanade is a must for the best upper-crust people watching.” 52 Rue Fabert — P.L.

Bread & Roses

“Before shows in the Luxembourg gardens, I always have a quick meal at Bread & Roses.” 25 Rue Boissy dAnglas — P.L.

From left: Holiday Café; Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Near Trocadéro

“Slightly out of the way from most of the shows, but worth it for a delicious lunch, is Holiday Café (192 Avenue de Versailles). Otherwise, it’s dim sum at the Shangri-La before Miu Miu (10 Avenue dIéna). — P.L.

Ya Lamai

“Near République, you never know who you’ll run into at Rose Chalalai Singh’s casual Thai bistro.” (4 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud) — P.L.

Paul Bert flea market.CreditAlastair Miller/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Paul Bert Market

“Visiting the Paris flea markets is essential, because you never know when you might find that dream coffee table — especially when browsing the Paul Bert Market.” 110 Rue des Rosiers — P.L.

Chez George

“A mandatory stop for me, Chez George gives me everything I want from a Paris bistro in terms of ambience — it’s like a long skinny cable car — and classic dishes. The lentil salad is the best.” 1 Rue du Mail — A.B.

Lunch on the run

“For healthy, quick lunch or juice spots, I like Wild & The Moon (55 Rue Charlot), La Guinguette d’Angele (34 Rue Coquillière), Maisie Cafe (32 Rue du Mont Thabor) and Rose Bakery (46 Rue des Martyrs).” — MALINA JOSEPH GILCHRIST, style director, women’s

Le Petit Vendôme

“The best sandwiches in all of Paris are served here.” 8 Rue des Capucines — M.J.G.

Hôtel Ritz Paris

“The Ritz serves an amazing Japanese breakfast, which includes fish, tofu, steamed rice, miso soup and vegetables like marinated cucumbers, turnip and radish.” 15 Place Vendôme — M.J.G.

SHOP

Maison Bonnet

“I always visit this eyewear resource when I’m in town.” 5 Rue des Petits Champs — P.L.

Comptoir de l’Image

“I also make sure to take time for some book shopping here.” 44 Rue de Sévigné — P.L.

Lindell & Co.

“A very special, tiny shop selling woolen pillows and throws embroidered in zebra and leopard prints by extremely talented artisans from Nepal. It’s run by a wonderful Frenchwoman named Gabrielle Soyer.” 19 rue Chapon — A.B.

Dries Van NotenCreditBenoit Teillet

Dries Van Noten

“Before all brand-name stores were carefully curated, there was this one, in Paris. It’s decorated like someone’s home, which make the clothes feel extra special.” 7 Quai Malaquais — A.B.

Vegetable pastes at Jacques Genin.CreditELIOT BLONDET/AFP/Getty Images

Jacques Genin

“Hands down the best chocolatier in Paris. There are two locations but I always make a stop at the shop on Rue de Turenne. The tiny chocolates are pristinely displayed like beautiful pieces of jewelry, while the nougats, caramels and sugared cubes of pure, concentrated fruit are equally sublime. At this point I have to make a stop here every fashion week — my gift list for family and friends keeps growing!” 133 Rue de Turenne — DAVID FARBER, style director, men’s

Marche aux Puces de Vanves

“Throughout the years, I have always made an effort to head out to the antique/flea market at Clignancourt, but I recently discovered the scaled-down charm of Puces de Vanves. After the madness of back-to-back shows, an early morning Sunday stroll through streets lined with vendors selling antique silverware, vintage books and small objets d’art is the perfect remedy.” 14 Avenue Georges Lafenestre — D.F.

Buttes-Chaumont Park.CreditAlex Créˆtey Systermans for the New York Times

SEE

Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

“This park is my favorite nearby getaway. It’s the perfect place to hide from fashion people, since it’s relatively far away, in the 19th.” 1 Rue Botzaris — J.R.

Le Bristol

STAY

Le Bristol

“One of the last genuine palace hotels in Paris that doesn’t feel too glossed over. If you’re on more of a budget, Hotel du Temps (11 Rue de Montholon) has everything you need, with lots of nice touches and rooms are surprisingly nice and big for Paris.” 112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré — A.B.

Related: the T Fashion Editors’ Guides to New York, London and Milan

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