The raging frustration that the pandemic has caused in young people has thrown gasoline on the fire of sex-positive fashion. In France, these horrible times—sans clubs, sans raves, sans even the legal possibility of dates—have rendered the slinkly erotic content of Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s work all the more magnetic across TikTok, Instagram, and his e-commerce platform.
As he was designing this collection, de Saint Sernin said he’d been channeling what everyone’s been wishing for: “I need real-life experiences, and I need to just be free again. Kind of being able to reconnect and have, you know, real human contact again.” Cruelly, our Zoom conversation took place on the day last week that Paris went into a more severe lockdown in the effort to prevent a third COVID wave from overwhelming Europe. On the bright side, though, the sexy cross-laced underwear, leather bralettes, sheer pajamas, fine-gauge body-clinging knitwear, and skimpy sparkly pieces he’s been building on since his beginnings has always played on the illicit charge of that which goes on behind closed doors. And since the pandemic started, he’s been proving that the young libertines of the world are willing to pay and wait to be part of it.
Pivoting to ‘swipe-up’ economics on Instagram in the face of the faltering of the wholesale system has opened a new direct connection with customers all over, he says. Evidence: the proliferation of hard-to-make Swarovski-crystalled pieces—a ‘Vichy’ check halter, a tartan-look mini skirt, crop tops, and narrow ties worn rockstar-wise as scarves. “It’s really funny: We’ve been developing this clientele that orders these collector’s items—they’re actually quite young men, whether they’re [from] Australia or Mexico. They’re like my version of couture clients who love the craftsmanship that goes into every one of these pieces. They don’t mind that it takes months and months for them to be made,” he says. “And it’s really cool to be able to make your customer—whether they’re younger or older—just understand the value of how much work is put into a piece.”
Following on from the eye-grabbing success of the metal-eyelet laced-fly leather jeans that he first showed on a Paris runway in spring 2019, de Saint Sernin’s also displaying a canny way of continuing to stamp the signature of his brand on the trimmings of bras and the metal grommet embroidery on coats. It’s louche, it’s sexual, and it reeks of French quality and confidence. To a young audience sick of living in track pants and hoodies, could anything look more different?