[January 21 2019] : fashion
ALBAN ADAM — When was your first encounter with fashion?
MARINE SERRE — When I was 15 or 16 years old I used to play tennis, back then my body was really muscled, not really the one of a top model. But I had a passion for clothes and quite good taste, strange enough to stand out a little… Interesting enough for people to ask me where my clothes were from. I bought a lot of clothes, mostly in secondhand and vintage stores. I never went to high-end stores, there weren’t any where I lived, so I spent hours every day in secondhand shops looking through heaps and heaps of garments. By the time I was 17 I had a huge accumulation of clothes, a collection in a way. That was when I really learned to love garments and to be interested in how they were constructed.
ALBAN ADAM — And you went on to study fashion?
MARINE SERRE — I did a fashion vocational course in Marseille after my GCSE. It was a classical French education where you were taught garment design in an intellectual way, where you had to have an artistic discourse. I wanted to work freely, and especially know how to actually construct garments in a technical way, to express myself without words in 3D, so I applied for La Cambre in Brussels. I really didn’t think they would take me, believing they thought I’d be far too wild and strange. Later, Tony Delcampe, the head of the fashion department, told me I got accepted because I had really weird taste – which is a positive thing for him and me.
ALBAN ADAM — How did it go over there?
MARINE SERRE — I loved the city, the hybridity and the grounded vibe in Brussels. I didn’t know anyone there so I had to meet people and create connections to construct my life. I met a lot of people that would become very close friends and collaborators – and still are today. It was so much fun, we went out and worked a lot. I was working very hard, I’m quite a hard worker.
ALBAN ADAM — How did it all happen once you graduated?
MARINE SERRE — Well it wasn’t that long ago really, it was only 2 years ago. Demna Gvasalia was part of the graduation show jury and after the show he asked me to come intern at Balenciaga. Almost simultaneously Guillaume, Anaïs and Romain from The Broken Arm, who I also met at my graduation show, asked me to make some pieces for their store and to create a special window display. I had no idea how to properly produce a collection at that time, especially with all my pieces being single-pieces, but I took on the challenge and made it work. I moved to Paris to work at Balenciaga and deliver the garments to The Broken Arm. It was a drastic change from Brussels but I was highly motivated.
ALBAN ADAM — Would you say interning was a positive thing to do ?
MARINE SERRE — I think if you have the patience to look and learn you can easily integrate into a team and become part of it. Each experience is different — mine was very positive.
ALBAN ADAM — From your first shop window at The Broken Arm to now, success came really fast…
MARINE SERRE — It did, we had been selected for the LVMH prize. They headhunted me and asked me to apply. I was selected for the Hyeres festival and the ANDAM as well and my name was starting to spread. I didn’t realize I was going to make a brand but the The Broken Arm sold my pieces quite well, I didn’t expect that. I remember seeing someone on the street wearing my clothes – it was Vicky from HUG in Chengdu wearing one of my dresses. She came up to me and told me how much she loved it. It was the first time I saw someone I didn’t know dressed in my garments!
ALBAN ADAM — How was it being part of the LVMH contest?
MARINE SERRE — I didn’t know what to expect but I was positively surprised with the freedom we were given – everyone got a space and could do whatever they wanted. I got to meet so many people, it was a little overwhelming to be introduced to all those superstars and editors. In the second round, talking to the jury of head designers, I was much more relaxed. It turned out to be easier for me – it felt more like a conversation, as they are doing the same job. I just explained my process and my vision in a very straightforward way.
ALBAN ADAM — How did you feel when you won?
MARINE SERRE — It was such a surprise, I was so sure it wouldn’t be me. I just went up, kissed Rihanna, and took the award – that was it. We were already selling internationally and had started to create a brand, but we thought it would take years. We didn’t expect everything to happen so fast. I say ‘we’ cause it was not just me anymore, we were already becoming a team behind Marine Serre. During the day I was working at Balenciaga and at night on our brand. I had to make a decision, and chose to focus on my brand. I wanted to be totally free and the LVMH prize gave me this freedom to grow and go on with my project.
ALBAN ADAM — And then you went to NY for the first time?
MARINE SERRE — Adrian Joffe had bought the collection, long before we won the Prize, in February that year. He had come to visit me in my tiny little Paris apartment during my lunchbreak, while I still had a full-time job at Balenciaga. I presented him the collection over a cup of coffee and he said they would take it for Dover Street Market. I asked if he was sure he wanted all of it, and he said yes. That was such a shock for me. When the delivery was ready in August, a few weeks after the Prize, Adrian asked me to come to New York. Upon arriving I first put up our installation at DSM, it took me the entire night, being all jetlagged. James and Adrian had organized a huge dinner, and I only realized it was all for the opening of the Marine Serre space while reading the menu. It was extremely touching, my first memory of New York is this dinner and all the people that were there… it was a great surprise.
ALBAN ADAM — And you had your first show in February 2018 during Paris Fashion Week?
MARINE SERRE — Yes, I only had 3 months to make this collection. Before, we had to construct the team, organize moving to a working studio that was not my living room, and so on. It was the first show, but not the most stressful one until today. I think because it was the first one I told myself it can be pretty small, it’s fine, it’s just the first one. The second one was much more stressful for me. A certain standard was set- expectations were higher and we had 600 people coming to the outskirts of Paris to some bridge. It had to be good.. and without rain.
ALBAN ADAM — How is it, the whole process of putting a show together?
MARINE SERRE — I’m involved in every aspect of it. For example, I have Benoit Bethune for styling, whom I have known from my last years at La Cambre. For my first show it was very natural to call him to collaborate with us. I work with a lot of friends, which is not always the easiest, but when it works out it’s really fantastic. It’s about creating and sustaining relationships with everyone. I really like this totality of the brand in every aspect, having a global vision. It’s a sort of responsibility towards your clients and your audience as well, changing things up and making them interesting. As a designer, with a show, I feel like I’m talking to 600 people at once in 10 minutes, and I also am speaking to many more via digital platforms and press. So the show is really an important moment for me.
ALBAN ADAM — Are you thinking of launching a menswear line, as you had menswear looks in your last show?
MARINE SERRE — That was only for this one show. Having menswear worked with the story of the show and fit with the concept I wanted to convey. The show took place on a pedestrian bridge, a location where you can see people walking by, going to work in the morning or coming home from a night out, that’s why there were children and men. It derived from my inspiration process, looking at people in the street and how they put together their outfits, including men. It’s very important for me to keep observing what is around me. I want to make sure my clothes are wearable and comfortable, but with certain cuts and proportions. It’s about finding the balance between the two; creating something to be lived in, thinking about what actions are necessary for people in their everyday lives and translating that into the garment. We have sleeves you can remove, we have lots of pockets, because like most men I don’t really like boring bags. It’s either really fun like the ball bag or no bag at all.
ALBAN ADAM — Could you tell us about your creative process and the upcycling specifically ?
MARINE SERRE — It is a very interiorized process – it starts with people and their attitude, observing people in the street. We construct the garments based on those observations, drafting, draping and searching for fabrics. Especially for the upcycling this is a very complex process, which is different obviously as it is steered by something that already physically exists. It’s not easy to find factories to produce those pieces, we really have to go there, meet with the owners and convince them to work with us. It requires a lot of additional organization to sort and prepare the fabrics for upcycled garments. It’s a huge amount of time and work. We were taking quite a big risk – it’s the first time in high-end fashion we are taking something like this into production. We were not sure at all if it would work, but actually the upcycled pieces already sold pretty well, and increasingly for last season. That really gave me a boost of energy, I thought; “ok, we were right. This is a pretty good feeling.” Now the upcycling makes up about 30 to 40 percent of the collection.
ALBAN ADAM — How would you define the identity of your brand?
MARINE SERRE — I don’t think we need to know what it is exactly. It is not about becoming a trendy brand. We want to keep a balance. It’s a constant evolution, it’s about embracing the moment. It is about working on intuition and that’s not going change… For sure the brand will not just stay the same, we all want to keep learning from mistakes and move forward season after season. We want to be accessible but exclusive, if that makes any sense. We want to work on and for the future. It’s a question of time and structure and the amount of work involved. It’s a very honest approach.. I want people to buy my pieces because they fall in love with them.
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