It’s been 40 years since Marc Jacobs founded his label—a major milestone and achievement for Jacobs. What can we say? He’s an astonishment, easily the most important American designer of his generation whose creative output and influence have been simply remarkable over the past four decades. The business—there’ve been ups, downs, but as of now, it’s up. Fashion, especially New York fashion, is grateful for him.
Marc the brand and Marc the man are celebrating the anniversary, touting it on Instagram with some favorite vintage campaign photos, as well as the newest campaign starring Cindy Sherman, FKA Twigs, and Lila Moss shot by Juergen Teller. Still, generally speaking, the promo for this milestone has been relatively low-key. But the fashion crowd can always count on something big to happen at a Marc Jacobs show.
The Armory was stripped, the way Jacobs has liked it for his shows for the past several years. One long, perfectly austere row of folding chairs on either side of the runway, and four gigantic beige folding chairs and a table at the end—a 2006 piece by the artist Robert Therrien, on loan from the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Therrien’s work was defined by outsize sculptures of seemingly simple and mundane objects, and his singular style is associated with a sense of childlike wonder.
Jacobs, who no longer does interviews at his shows, left his thoughts concise and clearly printed on show notes. The collection was titled Wonder. “My love for the common place is a constant and meaningful lifelong affair. Through the unavoidable lens of time, my glass remains full of wonder and reflection. By examining the memorable and the mundane, we abstract and exaggerate our desire to express something naïve and elegant.”
Indeed, the whole room was filled with familiarity. Jacobs’s loyalists in their seats—Chloë Sevigny, Sofia Coppola, Dakota Fanning, Debbie Harry—on either side of the runway. The pared-back, elegant melancholy of Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis 1” on the piano. The blaring lights suddenly up. The collection, always a surprise yet always definitively Marc Jacobs. He manages to be at once completely contemporary and of this moment while of another time.
Therrien’s sculpture was a perfect metaphor for the show’s nostalgic grandeur built on the concept of the simple things that have sparked wonder, joy, imagination, and a sense of play in a designer’s work. The models were essentially dolls, done up in exaggerated ’60s glamour silhouettes with big windswept coifs in retro hair dye colors by Duffy and divas of yesteryear makeup by Diane Kendal. The clothes, shoes, and bags were fitted like paper doll clothes, meaning they stood off the body, deliberately cartoonish, caught between the two dimensional and three. At times the models’ arms were frozen in a perfect doll pose.
Meaningful themes to Marc Jacobs’ canon strolled by at a pace conducive to taking it all in. The Sixties secretaries, the tromp l’oeil brooches, the sculpted jackets, chunky bright sweater and gray skirt pairings worn with more cartoon-like Mary Janes. There were plays on Juicy Couture velour track suits worn with sculpted panties from Jacobs’s Heaven subbrand (which made its runway debut at the Friday night show). Pastel tops and extreme culottes with undone combat boots gave a dose of grunge. But for the most part, the collection was about the kind of old-school dressing up that seems to mainly happen on screen these days, whether on your phone or in a Ryan Murphy joint. “Swans” was the word on every showgoer’s lips as they filed out, the last impressions of the show—stark black ladylike bustier tops, sweetheart necklines, and golden mirrored gowns with enormous bell sleeves—lingering large.
Did you like it? What did you think? People still ask, wondering, after a Marc Jacobs show. Forty years later, he makes us think, and always fills us wonder. That is as marvelous as it is rare.
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