Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Marine Serre Kickstarts Paris Fashion Week. Plus: Jacquemus, Dior's Corporate Feminism

Paris Fashion Week, the last leg of the monthlong autumn/winter 2019 extravaganza, began on Monday afternoon with the arrival of Rok Hwang, a London-based South Korean designer with a penchant for deconstructed and reconstructed luxury. His label, Rokh, won the Special Prize at last year’s LVMH Prize. 

The show marked Rokh's catwalk debut. He proposed deconstructed trench coats, gloved-turtlenecks, dresses spliced together from multiple fabrics. Perhaps it was the styling but the Rokh vision lacked the clarity it possesses against the backdrop of a white screen.  

Later that evening, Simon Porte Jacquemus signalled new directions. In a space that resembled a quaint square in the South of France—familiar territory for the Marseille-raised Jacquemus—he shifted away from the la bombe-sexuelle aesthetic he’s insisted on in recent seasons, to search for something grounded in reality. Of course, it was those micro-sized bags that were on everyone’s Instagram feeds for hours after. But beyond the bags—big and small; earrings, heels, and boots too— was a collection with answers to everyone’s question: where can Jacquemus go from here? 

He added some knitwear and roomy trousers, big coats to wrap up in, and abbreviated dresses that exuded a sensuality rather than an overtly sexy attitude. It’s important for him to tread this new ground at a juncture when ‘sensuality’ is sexier than ‘sexy.’ Once he refines the new direction—fewer accessories, more consistency with the clothes—he’ll be off to a flying fresh start.

Nothing looked quite as sharp or clever as Marine Serre’s standout Thursday morning rave-inspired presentation in a tunnel—not least at Christian Dior, where artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest corporate feminist opus which paid homage to the American second-wave feminist author, Robin Morgan, with ‘Sisterhood is Global’ t-shirts and the 1950s Teddy Girls subculture with nods to Edwardian tailoring. (The commodification of feminism, something which stirred controversy before, is likely to bubble to surface in light of this collection.) The prĂ©cis noted links to sportswear but they didn’t translate from the page to the runway. There were no hints of athleticism amidst the prim daywear or evening gowns topped with fedoras. Certainly, it was elegant. Revolutionary, it was not. But at Serre’s show, you got the sense that she was onto something genuinely interesting and unmissable. She had, dare one say, new! ideas. Who would’ve thought those exist in the digital age?

It’s precisely why Serre’s apocalyptic mood, with its rebellious and electric energy, looked new. Enter Serre’s dystopia, a climate change-stricken world, and you have to ready yourself with “futurewear” as she’s known to call it. It’s a new direction for fashion, a world where fur accents spurt out of denim and gilet jaune-style jackets, with dresses that looked like dreamcatchers, dripping with various strands of recycled fabrics, and puffer jackets moulded into hourglass silhouettes recalling 1980s couture pieces. 

A 27-year-old French woman with the 2017 LVMH Prize in her pocket, Serre has developed successfully as a designer in the infancy of her career. There’s a level of maturity that comes with every collection—perhaps from the mentorship she receives or else just pure creative genius and the clarity it brings. It goes without saying she’s commercially savvy too—her signature crescent-moon print veritably launched her commercial presence. (For fall 2019 she delivered more denim with the moon print, for men and women!)

Serre’s urban pirates nodded to fetishism too: see gas masks (they came in black, and green or red plaid) and full-body leather suits. Leave it to the young talent to reconstitute this reference, considering them a means of protection in her imagined dystopia.

This show, notwithstanding its existential dread, was a positive note to start Paris Fashion Week on.

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