Don't go bashing New York with Parisian designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin.
“I have so many friends here, I love the culture. And maybe I'm manifesting that I can spend more time here,” she said before her fall runway collection presented Sunday night during New York Fashion Week.
De Saint Sernin used the runway to launch a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the New York-based Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, established by the transgressive artist to protect his work before he died from complications of AIDS in 1989. Mapplethorpe was better known. for his black and white photographs documenting New York's S&M scene, using models recruited from bars and leather clubs to depict sexual acts. Perhaps most shocking in the pre-Internet porn era, his work became a lightning rod for political conservatives.
“Through his work, I found myself as a queer kid discovering my sexuality,” said de Saint Sernin, 32, who has been referencing the photographer with his sexually charged and gender-fluid designs since starting his brand in 2017. “I was always attracted to erotic work, but for some reason I became completely infatuated with their flower photographs,” she said of getting to know them better while visiting the foundation six months ago and diving into the archives.
On the runway, the collection unfolded as a journey from youthful innocence to sexual maturity, with Mapplethorpe's flowers hand-cut in velvet and fused into beautiful, delicate sheer backless blouses, button-down shirts, slip dresses and long skirts, or pixelated crystals incorporated into Saint Sernin's glamorous metallic mesh sleeveless dresses and tops.
Leather coats, boleros, bras, and ankle-slit pants had a sensual sophistication that carried over to leather thongs, lace-front pants, briefer briefs, plunging corsets, and fanciful face masks. darker sexual themes, although still with a luxurious sheen.
“It's a dream for me to do this. [At the foundation] They could feel the love and see that I've been referencing it for a while. They liked the approach I took, that instead of printing their photographs on clothing, I brought their photographs to life by having the characters step out of the frame and onto the runway,” de Saint Sarnin said of introducing Mapplethorpe to a new generation. .
“I wanted to remind people that I could photograph body parts that were incredible, shocking and like something you'd never seen before, but equally beautiful was the photograph of a tulip,” he said.
In a time when freedom of all kinds is under attack, when de Saint Sarnin strutted like a model down the runway, it felt like a victory lap.
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