Marine Serre to Balenciaga’s apocalypse fashion and face masks in the age of COVID-19 – Screen Shot
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Marine Serre to Balenciaga’s apocalypse fashion and face masks in the age of COVID-19

By Jessie Stainton

It’s impossible to scroll through anything right now without being bombarded by the hashtag #coronapocalypse. The elite may run to the Hamptons clad in the latest designer masks, but none of us can escape the collective uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought. 

Along with wholesale face masks, designer masks selling out is just the latest example of how the fashion industry glamourises crises. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, there was an apocalyptic tone rippling through the fashion world. Artists can’t be blamed for getting inspired by the world around us, and therefore inspiring it in return. However, when it comes to the biggest clothing brands, is the aestheticization of global chaos a thinly veiled complicity?

Surgical masks have been popping up on major runways since 2015 but in the age of a pandemic they hold a different weight. Since there is currently a global shortage of masks for health professionals, isn’t selling a stylised version for much more of the initial cost kind of insulting? Indulging in such hits a nerve for me, given that thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet with new isolation restrictions.

Masks aside, dystopian undertones are not new to the fashion industry and seem to be once more on the rise this season. Marine Serre has displayed post-apocalyptic sceneries and themes since her 2019 show where the Paris-based designer’s signature crescent moon was embossed on a black anti-pollution mask.

Marine Serre Coronavirus Mask Screen Shot Magazine

To accompany the doomsday gear, the brand collaborated with 3D artists Rick Farin and Claire Cochran of Actual Objects to bring forth creepily clairvoyant social commentary. The recent SS20 campaign video titled Marée Noire, which means ‘oil spill’ in French, features AI models in a 4-part story juxtaposing industrialisation and the effect it has on our environment in a dystopian realm. The artistry of this short film, like the clothing, is beautiful, however, I cannot help but question the purpose of aestheticising the dystopia beyond branding. I feel a frustrating ambivalence when watching an upcycled Marin Serre t-shirt retail for $508, making me wonder if these dystopian dreamworlds operate in their own economic realm.

Although Marine Serre is no longer affiliated with Balenciaga, the two brands shared very similar visions this season. Also released in February, the house’s Summer 2020 campaign video made waves for its uncanny social commentary and recurring questions such as: “Where is all the water going?” On brand with a politically-charged Spring 2020 RTW collection, the four minute faux newscast has irked me for similar reasons to the Marine Serre campaign.

The apocalyptic chic video addresses a variety of uneasy social issues from climate change and motor over-population to electoral politics. The dubbed mouths of the designer-clad news reporters suggest corporate control of the media. Most people have described the concept and the video as ‘cool’ but despite my enjoyment, the performance of social awareness does not translate into action. While yes, Balenciaga is holding a mirror up to the weirdness of the current social climate, this mirror allows the gaze to be diverted from the ones that are profiting.

People shouldn’t have to stop weaving sociopolitical issues into their work because the basis of culture revolves around seeking to understand through an aesthetic sense. Yet, I think there is a level of appropriation that must be extended to hold industries and high-power individuals accountable. I am tired of seeing powerful people produce watered-down trauma-porn that does not translate into direct activism. This boils down to my distaste for the neo-liberal tactic of putting the responsibility on the consumer.

Given that the fashion industry is the third largest user of water globally, Balenciaga should have some idea of where all the water used in its impressive last runway is going. As individuals, the best that we can do is consciously consume and try to hold businesses accountable. And maybe, if you’re thinking about buying a 3-figure mask, consider who that money could help instead.

Exclusive interview with Coco, Instagram’s trendiest 9-year-old fashionista

I would like to think that I had a good sense of style when I was younger. I remember having this tiny white rabbit fur coat that my mum had bought me age 5 that I had decided to customise with some pink fluorescent highlighter—I thought it was just the coolest thing ever, while my mum had a minor breakdown. Looking back now, I realise that, compared to today’s new generation of fashionistas, my early styling skills were borderline tacky.

Not only did Instagram create what we now know as influencers, it also introduced us to some very young fashion influencers. Standing out from the crowd of stylish little ones is Coco, also known as @Coco_PinkPrincess, the 9-year-old Japanese fashionista, and probably one of the trendiest and coolest young girls on Instagram. From her first post in 2015 to her most recent one from the beginning of February, not only did Coco share with her followers some serious fashion style, but she also showed the world what it means to be a kid-influencer.

Coco’s following really blew up globally after she was interviewed by Vice age 6. Shortly after, aged 7, she had already done a photoshoot for ELLE, for which she styled her own accessories. That same year, she spoke to Hypebae about her love of fashion. Today, with 675K followers (and counting), it is obvious that Coco is Insta famous, and for good reasons. Looking through her feed, there aren’t any styles that she can’t master—from streetwear and classic with a twist to kawaii and head-to-toe Gucci or Balenciaga, Coco looks amazing in everything.

In order to get some fashion tips from the Pink Princess herself, Screen Shot had an exclusive interview with the 9-year-old and her mum Misato, where we spoke about Coco’s style, her dreams for the future and her in-depth knowledge of Instagram’s algorithm. Here’s how it went:

What I love about your style is how eclectic and colourful it is. You always dare to take that extra step that most people wouldn’t. What is your process behind putting together one of those outfits? 

Coco: When I make an outfit I sometimes choose the clothes I want to wear first or choose a theme, also my father teaches me a lot about fashion, so sometimes we make the outfit together or sometimes just by myself.

Misato: As she grew up in Harajuku she’s been surrounded by many colourful and stylish adults, so she’s been in an open environment when it comes to styling.

Do you have fashion icons or other influences on your style?

Coco: Not really but I sometimes check fashion feeds on Instagram.

With the help of her parents who run the vintage store Funktique in Harajuku, Tokyo, Coco styles her outfits depending on what kind of mood she is in on that specific day. But how did she start her Instagram and what exactly does it take to curate an account that has that much fashion influence?

You’ve been known as a fashion icon on social media for a few years. Is it still as much fun for you today as it was in the beginning? What encouraged you to open your account and share your fashion styles with the world?

Coco: Yes, I still really enjoy taking photos for Instagram.

Misato: Coco was brought up in Harajuku since she was 2 years old where we, her parents, run a vintage shop. Shop staff, influencers and people in the entertainment industry around her were all on Instagram, so Coco naturally imitated them and started posting on Instagram.

As a fashion influencer, Coco is one of the few who don’t post as regularly as the others—she posts monthly or twice a month, but never every few days. Speaking to Misato, we asked:

Is this done on purpose or are you both just posting whenever you have time and good pictures of Coco’s outfits?

Misato: It’s true that her frequency to post has lessened and there are 2 reasons for it. After analysing Instagram’s algorithm and taking her daily life into consideration, the posting pace we chose was the most efficient for her then. She also started to have a lot of work and projects, so it became harder to make time for posts on Instagram. However, the algorithm has recently changed and her work pace became calmer, which means that she started posting like before again.

When it comes to social media, and more specifically Instagram, kids are now growing up alongside it. Do you think one day Instagram will become old news, and, if so, what new app would you like to replace it?

Coco: There are new apps coming out one after another so it might change to something else.

Misato: This is a hard question. We don’t know what will happen to Instagram and which app will replace it, but for Coco’s generation, it will still be an essential part of their lives. So it will also be important to be able to make decisions flexibly, even if the platform changes.

Speaking about the future, do you know what you’d like to achieve next?

Coco: Lately I enjoy acting, so for now, I hope to be a great actress.

That would be great! And what about fashion, do you see yourself still doing what you do on Instagram? Would you like to stay in the fashion industry?

Coco: I like fashion so I hope to still be a part of it in the future.

To finish, give us a few of your tips, what is your favourite thing about fashion at the moment?

Coco: Lately, I’m into flowers and creating styles like natural flower combinations. I like pale colour tones, like what natural flowers have.

So, for those of you who are in need of some fashion inspo, you heard it here first; try to include more flowers and pastel colours in your Instagram feed to stand out. When it comes to fashion, Coco’s style and vision both seem to be a mix between classic and new innovations—something that we, at Screen Shot, are always trying to promote in a fun and engaging way.

It is unclear what the future holds for social media, new technologies or even for the fashion industry, but what is sure is that the new generation is showing an incredible amount of savviness and creativity. In the end, it will be people like Coco, ZaZa and others who will shape our future, at least as long as fashion is concerned. And when speaking to Coco and her mum, it almost feels like a reassurance to realise that a famous 9-year-old fashionista can be as grounded and lovely as her Instagram pictures depict her.