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Ludovic de Saint Sernin makes his New York Fashion Week debut with a sophisticated, BDSM-inspired collection

CNN –

In 1990, photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe led to an obscenity charge against a Cincinnati museum. His depictions of men in lace-up leather, collars and belted jockstraps caused a national uproar because he dared to show the naked eroticism of queer men against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis.

Nearly 35 years later, Paris-based fashion designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin—whose rise has been bolstered by bold and sensual gender-bending looks—translated Mapplethorpe’s seductive and once-taboo black-and-white fashion at New York Fashion Week’s highly anticipated debut. white photographs into an enchanting collection of crystal mesh dresses and black leather, including BDSM-inspired masks and back-cut trousers. Sheer fabrics forming long-sleeved shirts and barely-tied tops at the sides featured appliquéd silhouettes of Mapplethorpe’s calla lilies and muscular bodies, seemingly playing with the idea of ​​photo transparencies. (The collection is an approved collaboration with the late artist’s foundation, similar to one with Belgian designer Raf Simons in 2016.)

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The exhibition was titled “X,” after Mapplethorpe’s most controversial portfolio of works.

“Robert has always been a great inspiration to me – when I discovered his work, I discovered myself,” de Saint Sernin told CNN backstage.

The show, titled “X,” after the famed photographer’s most controversial portfolio of work, comes at a time when skin and sheer “naked” dresses have been very in – or rather out – on the runways for more than a year and pantless silhouettes dominate, although often with a sterile effect. That’s very different for de Saint Sernin, who has dressed the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kim Petras and Arca since launching his eponymous label in 2017, and whose brand naturally evokes the kind of sex appeal that gets hearts racing.

“Sometimes I shy away from perceiving my work as sensual and an expression of sexuality,” de Saint Sernin told CNN in a video call before the show. “And now I’m like, no, I really need to own it.”

His label’s taste in sexuality is not bound by gender, with freedom for everyone to flaunt their shoulders in an embellished halter top or indulge in the daring delights of peekaboo cotton organdy.

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The label is now polished, aged and bears the Paris seal of approval.

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“I like to show how a person can explore their feminine or masculine side… and I think that the development and competence that one can gain with their gender and identity is an exploration that one does throughout their life,” said de Saint Sernin.

Some of the designer’s most high-profile collaborations to date have included decking Olivia Rodrigo in 150,000 sparkling Swarovski crystals for the MTV Video Music Awards and dressing Kim Kardashian in a plunging, lace-up leather “cleavage dress” (like). (as seen on season four of The Kardashians) and creates the flowy, sparkly top that Troye Sivan dances in in his “Got Me Started” music video.

But his most viral moment came at the Oscar parties last year, when Hunter Schafer wore a single bandeau top with white feathers and a long silk skirt straight from the Ann Demeulemeester runway show that de Saint Sernin headlined for a single season. De Saint Sernin’s message of self-love and self-expression found a fitting home in Schafer, whose career-launching role as trans teenager Jules in “Euphoria” embodied the same spirit.

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Actor Hunter Schafer attended the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party wearing a creation by Ludovic de Saint Sernin.

Now the New York catwalk is new territory for de Saint Sernin, who began his career at the long-established French luxury house Balmain under creative director Olivier Rousteing and showed his own line in Paris every season. Instead of showing his clothes in daylight – chosen to emphasize, as he said, “elegance and imagination and quirkiness and fluidity” (last season’s show took place on the sunlit promenade of the city’s Musée des Archives Nationales) – for his first official appearance in With his American design, de Saint Sernin wanted to transport his guests to the hedonism of a New York dance floor and convey the act of “losing yourself in the city at night and not really knowing what to expect,” he said . “(It’s) sexy, hot, steamy, sweaty.”

With “X,” de Saint Sernin tells the loose story of Mapplethorpe’s New York over the course of nearly 40 looks, during which the photographer “tried to figure out his identity as an artist and also his sexual identity.” Designer explains.

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“Robert (Mapplethorpe) has always been a great inspiration to me – when I discovered his work, I discovered myself,” de Saint Sernin told CNN backstage at his show in New York.

But “X” is also a coming-of-age story for the de Saint Sernin brand, now polished, matured and bearing the Parisian stamp of approval, as he shows a new overseas market eagerly snapping up his clothes.

“It turns out the US is my biggest market… we dress a lot of celebrities in New York and LA and I just wanted to celebrate New York as a city with the most incredible creatives,” he said. “It’s a place where queer culture is so strong and celebrated, and I always feel very free to be myself, dare more and have fun.”

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Olivia Rodrigo at the MTV Video Music Awards 2023. Her dress was made from 150,000 Swarovski crystals.

Next, the designer has set his sights even higher as he hopes to bring his idea of ​​unbridled freedom and expression to luxury worldwide.

“The ultimate goal is to become the first queer global (fashion) brand and tell the story of someone who has found their community, thrives in it, celebrates it and shares it with the world,” he said. “That’s really what we want to do.”

Source: amp.cnn.com

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Laura Turner

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