Ludovic de Saint Sernin FW24 Documents a Journey of Self-Discovery Through Robert Mapplethorpe’s Lens

The Paris-based designer made his New York Fashion Week debut on Sunday evening, with a confidently sexual collection that was made in collaboration with the renowned photographer’s foundation.

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Ludovic de Saint Sernin has shown on the Paris Fashion Week calendar since the founding of his namesake label in 2017. However, despite being headquartered in Europe, the fluid designer makes most of his money west of the Atlantic: in fact, North America is the brand’s largest market, with U.S. sales composing 32% of Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s total revenue. Quenching consumer demand, de Saint Sernin touched down in New York City for his first-ever show on the CFDA’s fashion calendar on Sunday evening, thanks to a collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

In his adolescence, de Saint Sernin often found solace in the late photographer’s unabashedly provocative work; and in his early 20s, the designer, now 32, discovered a deeper connection to the renowned artist, after reading Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, in which she documents her relationship with Mapplethorpe. “I see myself in Robert in a personal and creative way,” de Saint Sernin told Hypebeast backstage at his show. “This was the right moment to not only honor his work but his life too.”

He did so by planting Mapplethorpe’s famous flowers on sheer backless tops in velvet; later, his references became raunchier, embracing the innate eroticism that’s embedded in Mapplethorpe’s imagery through skin-revealing cuts, chainmail details and BDSM-like leather harnesses. “It’s about self-exploration,” de Saint Sernin said. “The show starts with something that’s very pure and minimal before it goes into an exploration of sex.” There’s a strong sense of queer pride that permeates the entire range, nodding to Mapplethorpe’s controversial documentations of gay culture in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “I wanted to show the lifelong journey that is discovering your identity, your sexuality,” he added.

Many of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, like the now-lauded Man in Polyester Suit, capture this sensuality in the foreground of classic men’s suiting. In his collection, de Saint Sernin championed that dichotomy, revealing formalwear that was predominantly composed of lusty leather. Eyelet trousers paired with a firetruck-red tie in a similarly-luminous textile, while overcoats, trenches and bombers also employed the hero material. And for those less interested in going to the office, the designer composed a number of not-safe-for-work pieces, like leather briefs that dipped below the waist to reveal models’ backsides.

“Robert’s work allowed me to be free,” de Saint Sernin concluded. “I want this collection to provide that feeling for others, too.” Following the show, de Saint Sernin’s fashion brigade called cars to BOOM at The Standard for a classic fashion fête, where his carefree, club-kid clothing looked right at home.

See Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s Fall/Winter 2024 collection in the gallery above, and stay tuned to Hypebeast for more New York Fashion Week coverage.

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