Words: Jake Halpin

By this stage in 2020, there is absolutely no doubt that men’s fashion is undergoing what may be its most exciting renaissance since the 1960s. This is thanks in large part to the deconstruction of the idea of gender – a movement which has been gaining significant momentum in recent years, and is now a common theme both on and off the runways. More than ever before, men are becoming more emboldened to take risks with their style and incorporate what may have once been considered more feminine silhouettes, shapes, materials and colours, resulting in a dynamic and fresh vision for menswear.

Credit: Supplied

For French designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin, his collections have been, from the very beginning, fresh and directional. His unique brand of fashion sensibility with a nuanced understanding of the male sexuality has seen his label go from start-up to industry favourite in just three years. De Saint Sernin draws inspiration everywhere from Robert Mapplethorpe to Christina Aguileira – reimagining a myriad of cultural and artistic references in what one could describe as high fashion meets eroticism and sensuality.

“I think the offering in fashion for menswear in recent years has reached such a beautiful momentum and I feel like men aren’t scared to take risks anymore and try something new,” says de Saint Sernin. “There’s been a big shift in recent years in who gets all the spotlight. Take for example, talents like Timothée Chalamet or Steve Lacy, look at the way they dress, they way take risks, it’s exciting. That’s what people want now and a guy in a suit is just not as exciting anymore.”

Ludovic de Saint Sernin / Credit: Supplied

Despite only founding his eponymous label in 2017, de Saint Sernin is already making quite a mark within the fashion industry. In 2018, the label was nominated for the LVMH Prize and won the ANDAM Prize, while a year later in 2019, de Saint Sernin was inducted into the BOF 500 – a curation of the 500 most influential people in the fashion industry selected by the Business of Fashion.

De Saint Sernin attributes part of his label’s success to developing a strong identity for his label. “I’ve been lucky in the sense that, quite organically I have managed to establish a signature that I feel has become quite recognisable, I’m also in love with the idea of creating imagery so it helps creating a whole brand identity. You can never create too much content especially in this day and age.”

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Now, he is one of 10 emerging designers vying for the 2020 International Woolmark Prize, which celebrates outstanding fashion talents from around the world who work with Australian Merino wool. The award is regarded as one of the most prestigious and financially lucrative prizes for an emerging fashion designer, with the winner to receive AUD $200,000 to assist them with further establishing their business, as well as ongoing mentoring and support from a prestigious council of industry heavyweights including the likes of Dior’s Kim Jones and editor-in-chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful.

“It’s been such an inspiring experience for me. Merino wool has such amazing qualities and makes so much sense for my brand. The inspiration for the Woolmark capsule was bodywear. I wanted to create a collection that celebrates the body and the amazing fiber that merino wool is. Which means there are a lot of bodysuits with fun cut outs and also jumpsuits but make it very fashion,” says de Saint Sernin, on working with The Woolmark Company on a capsule collection of six looks for the Prize.

The winner will be announced on Monday 17 February, following a runway presentation during London Fashion Week featuring looks from each of the 10 finalists. In addition to the titular award, one other finalist will be awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation for demonstrating outstanding innovation in product or manufacturing, along with a prize of AUD $100,000 – a new inaugural award to honour Lagerfeld’s legacy of creativity and ingenuity.

If you’re placing bets on anyone to make Merino wool look sexy, make it Ludovic de Saint Sernin.