Introducing the Subversive New Designer You Need to Know

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Ludovic de Saint Sernin S/S18Photography by Luis Venegas

Ludovic de Saint Sernin, who was previously at Balmain, makes Mapplethorpe-inspired clothes for him, her and them

  1. Who is it? Paris and London-based designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin
  2. Why do I want it? A small, perfectly formed collection of unisex vinyl trenches, lace-up cowboy fastenings and kinky pants. Say no more
  3. Where can I find it? Sold via NYC’s The Webster, or Japanese stores Isetan, Adelaide or from Spring 2018, Super A Market

Who is it? When shopping, Ludovic de Saint Sernin – the divinely named menswear designer who launched his eponymous label this year – doesn’t really care what he’s looking at. Whether he’s pulling on a rollneck designed for women, or a coat made with a man in mind, is of little consequence to him. Though his own collections are officially ‘menswear’, it’s predominantly women buying them. “It’s so cool that a guy and a girl can both fit into a pair of my pants,” he explains.

Before going solo, De Saint Sernin was at Balmain for three years. “I can’t tell you how many eyelets I’ve sewn into garments!” he laughs – and after all that embellishment he was ready to get away from glitz. His debut collection is a neat line-up of ten looks, notably pared back in comparison to the French fashion house. There are earthy Paco Rabanne-inspired vests made from ceramic discs, ruched leather halter necks, vinyl raincoats and silk trousers in maroon. Playful cowboy fastenings adorn kinky leather-like trousers and pants. Last week the charismatic and wildly sexy Casey Spooner, of Fischerspooner fame, wore De Saint Sernin’s silk halter dress and ceramic vest to the opera in Paris, making categories which separate menswear and womenswear seem increasingly passé.

Why do I want it? While his former Balmain workmates juggle collaborations with L’Oréal and Victoria’s Secret alongside regular collections, De Saint Sernin is taking his time. “I want to keep the brand at a slow and precise pace. I know how quickly things are consumed these days. People are always looking for the next thing.”

Looking for the next thing is what prompted Luis Venegas, the editor-publisher of independent magazine Candy and creative director (he’s worked with Acne, Loewe and PAPER) to get in touch. “He contacted me on Instagram asking if I had any plans to shoot a campaign,” says De Saint Sernin. “I didn’t, because you need a big budget.” The two quickly exchanged ideas and references via direct messages; vintage Prada and Helmut Lang campaigns, Bruce Weber and Joe McKenna books. “Luis has this amazing archive of books and magazines. For every reference or screengrab, he already had the physical book, magazine or poster. It was an easy conversation, we share a very similar aesthetic.” The resulting campaign has hints of Mark Borthwick and the portraiture of Robert Mapplethorne.

Right now he’s working on the A/W18 collection. “I’m exploring winter dressing, but I still don’t want to cover up too much. I want to show some flesh. I spent the summer in LA, so it’ll be a bit influenced by that.” His tour included snooping around Modernist residences like Schindler House and Kaufmann Desert House. Can we expect languid swimming pool shades? He pauses for a moment, unsure how much to reveal. “There’ll be an all blue look, for sure.”

There’s not time to prod, as De Saint Sernin has a Eurostar to catch. He splits his time between Paris and London, where his boyfriend lives, but he’s found his sweet spot. In Paris, it’s “work, work, work,” but in London he shoots visuals, collaborates with a local ceramicist and sees exhibitions. “It can be exhausting but at least I’m constantly fed. I still think about the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at Tate earlier this year. That’s really stayed in my mind.”

Where can I find it? For now, Ludovic de Saint Sernin is stocked in a select few places. Eyelet-peppered trench jackets can be bought at New York downtown boutique The Webster (which also ships internationally). More items are stocked in three stores in Japan; Isetan, Adelaide, and from Spring 2018, in Super A Market.

Art direction and photography by Luis Venegas. Casting: Piotr Chamier. Hair: Louis Chewy at Management + Artists. Make-up: Karin Westerlund.