Marine Serre is barely 26 and has managed to captivate the fashion industry from the outset of her still very short tenure at the helm of her eponymous label. Just months after launching her brand last year, she won the LVMH Prize. Vogue’s Mark Holgate called her debut outing, “terrifically cool,” and “strong and thought-provoking.” In the time since, she has been coined “Paris's Hottest Young Designer,” and just this week, Garage Magazine called her “the Most Essential Designer Working Today,” while the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan said that Serre “stands out” and is a “name you want to remember.”
There are at least a couple of constants when it comes to Ms. Serre. There is the near-constant praise for her very-young brand or her impressive background (the La Cambre design school in Brussels graduate interned at Margiela, and was working at Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga when she first launched her eponymous label). Moreover, there are barely any reviews of her collections or mentions of her brand, more generally, that are devoid of a mention of the crescent moon, the symbol that adorns so many of her wares – whether it be all-covering catsuits, taffeta jackets, or platform boots. It has become, after less than a handful of collections, her signature motif.
Unsurprisingly, just as the moon symbol appears in her recently unveiled MatchesFashion capsule collection and the corresponding installation, it is all over her Spring/Summer 2019, adorning dresses, leggings, footwear, headbands, and even a few childrenswear looks. Look closely and you will even see a turtleneck peeking out from underneath a dress or two, which bears the little moon and her name.
What Serre is doing here is more than developing a brand-specific trend or giving rise to concern amongst at least some industry and non-industry participants (designer/writer/advocate Celine Semaan, for instance, called attention to the crescent moon’s connection to Islam (and Serre’s depictions of the symbol on predominantly white models) in an article for The Cut in March). From a legal point of view, she is doing something else – something very powerful: in many cases, she is using the moon symbol as an indicator of source, or in other words, as a trademark. (I say “in many cases,” as some of the uses could be be deemed more decoration-centric than source-identifying in nature).
For the uninitiated, a trademark is any word, name, symbol, device, or combination thereof, used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller from another. For instance, when consumers see a shoe with a swoosh on it, they know it was made by Nike. A double “C” logo-adorned bag is the product of Chanel, etc.
As a result of years of use of those marks on their products, consumers, as a whole, have linked the marks – the swoosh and the double, interlocking “C” – to the respective brands. Similarly, when a consumer hears the world “Apple” outside of a food context, they likely think of the Cupertino, California-based iPhone-marker.
These are three of the most well-known trademarks in the world. And yes, it is worth noting that none of these marks – the check mark-inspired swoosh, two letter “C”s, nor the word “Apple” – are inherently novel; meaning that trademarks need not be earth-shatteringly unique to be protected. They simply need to identifiable by the average consumer as coming from a single source, i.e., a single company. This bodes well for Ms. Serre.
As for whether the average consumer would be able to tie the crescent moon to the Marine Serre brand (or any single fashion brand, for that matter), it is highly doubtful, but that is likely of little concern here, in large part because the average consumer is not shopping $1,000-plus red PVC trench coats or dresses from the runway that are made from a contrasting neoprene wetsuit top and flowing handkerchief-hem skirt made from a slew of silk scarves.
Nonetheless, for those in the fashion industry and its periphery (which is where Serre’s in-the-know consumers reside), that little moon is an indicator of source … for the Marine Serre brand, and that is an asset. And do note, for a brand to have established such an identity with not even two years under its belt, is impressive.