The cornerstone of Marine Serre’s 2016 graduation collection from La Cambre, the Belgian design school, was a print of a tiny crescent moon. Although the celestial symbol has links to a number of cultures and religions, it is most commonly associated with Islam, and it was in that context that Serre used it in her collection, which she named “Radical Call for Love.” Born in 1991, Serre is French, part of a generation that has grown up fearing terrorism but also the reaction to terrorism. The attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels four months later occurred during her final year at La Cambre. Her collection, which included references to 19th-century dress and contemporary sportswear, was a response to those events, although Serre stopped short of calling it a political statement.
Sitting on the jury at the La Cambre student show was Romain Joste, who, with Anaïs Lafarge and Guillaume Steinmetz, founded the Paris concept store the Broken Arm. Joste, unable to pinpoint the exact feelings Serre’s collection had elicited in him — a plus in his view — invited her to meet his partners in Paris. There, they offered to put some of her garments in the shop’s windows during Fashion Week. In 1984, a London boutique had done the same thing for a guy named Galliano. The Broken Arm owners also told Serre they’d help pay to produce the roughly 15 styles.
“Radical Call for Love” was only Serre’s second collection, yet she was now in the same store as big names like Balenciaga, Loewe, Céline, and Raf Simons. Among those who stopped by was Adrian Joffe, the president of both Dover Street Market International and Comme des Garçons International, the label designed by his wife, Rei Kawakubo. He offered to carry Serre at Dover Street and to help with production costs. By last fall, when Dover Street opened Marine Serre pop-up shops in four international locations, the designer had won the LVMH Prize for the same work, collecting roughly $357,000. The moon print was often spotted in the crowds at New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.
“Radical Call for Love” demonstrated that, before she even had a business, Serre had created a brand. What’s more, the moon print could be read in the context of Islamic iconography or as a kind of Pop graphic, just as her wide headbands could be read as a take on an athletic band or a hijab. Serre, who will hold her first proper show this February, during the Paris collections, told me, “There are people who think the print is quite radical, and there are others who don’t know anything about politics and think it’s just cute. And this is exactly what I love.”
Photos by Erik Madigan Heck
Styled by Rebecca Ramsey
Portraits by Stefani Pappas, Assistant: Lisa Starmans
Produced and Casting by Biel Parklee
Hair by Takashi Yusa using L’Oreal at MAM-NYC
Makeup by Yuki Hayashi using Chanel Les Beiges at Streeters
Set Design by Andrea Huelse
Models: Sarah Abt at the Society Management, Saida Valieva at Wilhelmina Models
Digital Technician: Matt Occhuizzo. Fashion Assistant: Indya Brown. Set Design Assistant: Summer Moore
Special Thanks to Pier 59 Studios
*This article appears in the January 8, 2018, issue of New York Magazine.