It should go without saying given his name, but Ludovic de Saint Sernin is “deeply French.” For the designer’s latest collection, frail, beautiful boys wearing lace-up ballet flats stood in an assortment of corduroy, leather, and grommet-heavy garments. Oh, and the underwear, of course. Though he has only just finished his second collection, Sernin’s brand identity has already become synonymous with a Mapplethorpe-worthy line of laced up, leather underwear that he recently released in a brooding red for Valentine’s Day.
He knows what he’s doing and, judging by the viral following he’s amassed and his place on the LVMH shortlist this week, all eyes are focused on what he’ll do next. Almost overnight, the designer whose sharp looks would fit into his own collection’s model casting has emerged as one of fashion’s most alluring new talents.
It’s a fitting rise for the 27-year-old designer whose early life was spent along the Ivory coast of Africa, the halls of the ESAA Duperré fashion school, and the design studio at Balmain. Now two seasons into his own brand, Sernin has let his imagination run wild as he pulls inspiration from Robert Mapplethorpe, Surrealist art, and Mylène Farmer—or the “French Madonna.”
We caught up with the illustrious designer as he prepares to launch into a new collection to talk about being shortlisted for the LVMH prize, melting egg motifs, and Instagram DMs about his iconic underwear.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin by Hunter Abrams
OUT: You've only recently launched your collection but you're already on the LVMH Shortlist. How does it feel to be so immediately recognized, especially since you've created clothing that so visibly embraces queer sensuality?
Ludovic de Saint Sernin: It’s such an amazing feeling, getting recognition from LVMH is a big deal and I am very excited about this new chapter. It’s only been seven months since my first presentation for SS 18 and I showed the second collection only a few weeks ago. Being shortlisted means I will be able to meet so many great people from the industry and tell my story. The first show was a coming of age story where I was expressing myself very freely and openly about sex. And for the second one I wanted to continue that conversation about homoerotism and empowering people in general regardless of their sexuality.
You showed your debut collection less than a year ago. How has the past year for you been?
Overwhelming, but in a good way. At the very beginning, I had no idea I was going to do this first presentation, it all happened really organically and once we showed, the reaction was so positive that it all became very real. The brand has grown quite quickly—we’ve sold to four stockists in the first season and did a great campaign with our Art Director, Luis Venegas.
That first collection was inspired by Mapplethorpe, right? What inspired this collection?
The first collection was inspired by Mapplethorpe, yes! After I read Just Kids by Patti Smith, I felt I had an intimate connection to Mapplethorpe and his work. There was a secret look, actually. A linen and silk knitted jock strap [from that collection] was directly inspired by one of his famous dick photos of a guy who has a star tattoo on his thigh—it’s one of my favorites!
This new collection is about Surrealism, which is my least favorite art movement, but I wanted to challenge myself and see how I would respond to that. There’s obvious surrealist references like the melting egg cup holder, but what I discovered about that movement is that it was all about putting very normal things together to make them surreal. This is what I’m doing with my collection. A look that might seem fine on an older woman from the Upper East Side looks totally subverted on an 18-year-old in Paris.
How does your own identity blend into your work?
The first collection was a very personal interpretation of my coming of age story. This season, I feel that the collection has matured alongside me—in terms not only of fabrics and material but also the attention to detail. My friend told me that one of the looks from the new collection could literally have been taken from my own wardrobe. (Laughs)
What’s one of the most surprising inspirations behind this new collection?
Mylène Farmer! She’s an icon in France; she’s basically the French Madonna! I love her songs and videos, especially “Sans-Contrefaçon.” I really love having light hearted pop references alongside more serious references and, this season, Mylène was one of them. The biggest surprise of all was that she wore the first look from the new collection on the cover of her new album, which came out the day before the presentation.
You’re a huge fan of grommets and lace-up detailing. Do you ever grow tired of applying grommets to garments? I’d imagine it’s pretty time consuming.
100 percent, but it’s a labor of love! The final result is worth it and trust me, compared to where I use to work, it isn’t that many. This season I pushed the embellishments a bit further, actually. I love the idea of a very artisanal piece. The red jumpsuit’s ceramic pieces were all made by hand by an artist based in Hackney.
There’s an unmistakably queer romance to your collection. Did you intend to make such quietly sensual garments or did it come naturally?
I don’t know that it was intended the first time around—I had no idea it could be seen as erotic. But, everyone has a different interpretation of sex and what is arousing in a garment. Definitely one of the most popular piece is the laced up underwear in denim or leather. Boys love it! I get DM'd everyday about them, I’m going to do a drop on Instagram really soon to answer the high demand for those. This season was for Fall/Winter, which automatically means covering up and layering but I still wanted to show some skin as it’s now part of the DNA.
What was your process for picking models? Do they represent something deeper for you?
Absolutely, casting is crucial to me. I work with my really good friend, Piotr Chamier. We share the same aesthetic in terms of boys and the casting and fitting really is when the garments come to life. When you have the right boy for the right look, you know immediately.
I used this boy Marcus last season and people told me he looked like me—I guess it’s the long hair. I thought it would be cool to have him again. He’s the sweetest boy. I guess I see something in each and every one of them that speaks to me. It could be a look in their eyes, the way they move, or even something they say.
Photography: Hunter Abrams