Is it tacky to care about fashion in the midst of a global health crisis? Maybe. But also, as my mum always says, life is for the living; and by quoting her I mean to say that in order to have the strength to fight climate change and coronavirus and everything else, it’s important to remember why we love being alive.
Marine Serre’s AW20 show allowed viewers to hold both feelings — fear of death and love of life — at once. The audience sat on benches so low, we were nearly on the floor; the space was dark and mirrored, other-worldly from the get-go. Imagining a future in which humans are spread out on inter-connected planets, the collection was grouped around the different cultures on our new hypothetical homes, and the individual environmental and metaphysical challenges they face. An all-white skirt and top, complete with silvery tights and a white face-scarf to protect from moonlight; a double-breasted, floor-length coat fit for battle. Puffer jackets with hoods that, structurally, extended from the torso like an insect thorax, to protect from extreme cold. A black dress with puffed sleeves and a ball-skirt made for time travel. Serre’s visual narrative was so convincing that these scenarios seemed completely within the realm of possibility.
Even though the collection was sci-fi, the extreme wearability of the vast majority of the pieces grounded this future in today’s reality: chic medical face masks; elegant means of sun protection; a tiny pink backpack strapped to a leg. There was even a perfectly tailored wide-legged black pantsuit, which I would like to put on right now and never take off. The clothes were all dystopian but also appealing. Perhaps we’re closer to a dystopian reality than we’d like to admit.
Nearly half of the collection was made from recycled fabrics, and the Frankensteining of materials was intentionally obvious, hinting at a future — and present — in which upcycling needs to become the norm. And speaking of the future, the last few looks of the show starred children, a metaphor for hope that was as optimistic as the fuchsia, frilly dresses she ended with. Despite the changing climate, the spreading disease, the political drama, life will go on.