Ludovic De Saint Sernin Fall 2024 Ready to Wear: Robert Mapplethorpe for the Next Gen


Don’t go bashing New York to Paris-based designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin.

“I have so many friends here, I love the culture. And I’m kinda maybe manifesting that I get to spend more time here,” he said ahead of his 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 of complications from AIDS in 1989. Mapplethorpe was best known for his black-and-white photography documenting the New York S&M scene, using models recruited from leather bars and clubs to stage sex acts. More shocking perhaps 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, gender-fluid designs since starting his brand in 2017. “I was always drawn to the erotic work, but for some reason I completely became infatuated with his photos of flowers,” he said of getting to know them better while visiting the foundation six months ago and immersing himself in the archives.

On the runway, the collection unfolded like a journey from youthful innocence to sexual maturity, with Mapplethorpe’s blossoms hand cut in velvet and fused onto beautiful delicate sheer backless tops, button-down shirts, slipdresses and long skirts, or pixelated into crystals incorporated into de Saint Sernin’s glam metal mesh halter tops and gowns.

Leather coats, boleros, bra tops and ankle-slit pants had sultry sophistication that transitioned to the leather bondage straps, front-lacing pants, briefest of briefs, plunging corsets and face masks of darker sexual fantasies, though still with a luxury gloss.

“It’s a dream of mine to do this. [At the foundation] they could feel the love and see that I’ve been referencing him for a while. They liked the approach that I had, which was rather than print his pictures on garments, to bring his pictures to life by having the characters come out of the frame and onto the runway,” said de Saint Sarnin of introducing Mapplethorpe to a new generation.

“I wanted to remind people that he could photograph incredible body parts that were shocking, and like something you’ve never seen, but then equally beautiful was a photograph of a tulip,” he said.

In a time when freedom of all kinds is under attack, when de Saint Sarnin took his own model-like strut around the runway, it felt like a victory lap.

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