The Mystifying Marine
A 12th-century Brittany manor loaded with myths and ancient history — this is Marine Penvern’s childhood home. Merlin was born in the forests of her backyard, and you can see the style of his influence in the dramatic cloaks that Marine designs. Her father (a stone lover who came out of the closet when Marine was 15) allowed her and her siblings to roam the enchanted paths of her surroundings as long as they participated in family chores — duties, like laying the slate on the roof of their stone house, would be exchanged for dinner. “It was everybody’s home,” says Marine. According to local legend, her epic communal abode was near a buried king and his treasure. While digging for the “gold,” Marine would imagine herself being transported to earlier centuries, wearing a dark olive velvet dress with a braid across her hair. “Druid and Celtic creatures fed my imagination,” Marine reminisces.
We didn’t have to meet Marine to feel the magic of her mystifying presence when we used her Lower Manhattan loft to interview Cameron Carpenter a couple of years ago. Little is left unexpressed in Marine’s home — a cluttered, creative outburst of shadow boxes, haunting paintings, and clothing designs that are inspired by Orientalism and Middle East/Irish folklore. Born out of a time when ones imagination was forced to go inward and deep, Marine creates what she wants to experience. When her 1990s apartment didn’t have heat, she started to knit sweaters and make wool dresses that were, of course, extraordinary. When her jeans start to tear, Marine patches them with rich velvets that transform them into inventions of her own. Her flourishing inner child, whose sensibility was formed by French chocolate bars in the 70s that came with great works of art on the inside, is in everything she touches. Fashion and art entwine with the charm of a fairytale. Just take a look at the way in which Marine adorns her wrists and you will know what we mean.
Elisa & Lily
“I went to Cork and Dublin and somehow found myself in a convent, surrounded by prude 15-year-old girls who would’ve gone to jail if they got pregnant. I was the creepy girl in the corner smoking her cigarettes. Since I didn’t speak English, I was very isolated. Everything boiled down to me not abiding by the dress code. I was supposed to be in a uniform, but I wore short skirts and thigh-high socks (it was the 80s, you know), so I was told to leave. They gave me a beautiful silver pen as a present.”
A shadow box that Marine made. The inspiration came from an intense childhood dream she had while living in her 12th-century manor.
“I first started designing clothes out of practicality and physical need. There was no heat in my studio so I would knit myself wool clothing.” Clothes from Marine's children collection
“I didn’t know I was a painter until I moved to New York in 1990 to find my identity. Living on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side and meeting all these other artists made me realize, Wow, I am a painter too! I got a job at a production company in Brooklyn. I did a lot of scenery, which was great for me as a painter since I could work on a large scale. I did that for many years and earned a good living. Rent was cheap back then, so I would work one week a month and do my own thing. Compared to now, it feels like a luxury.”
Clothes from Marine’s children’s collection.
“I’m 43, but I feel like a 20-year-old kid. Relating to parents my age isn’t easy — most are well-established and married. Around here, when we throw birthday parties, we don’t just rent a sterile space: we throw parties with organic cakes and juice. The parents always say, ‘This is the best birthday party in town!’”
The bedroom of Marine’s son.
“I will always want to create things that I would like to experience.”