Rising from the ashes, Marc Jacobs creates one collection after another on a subject rarely explored in couture these days – preppy fashion, and that also in America, the paradise of preppy fashion! Even though you know which floor in Bloomingdale’s to go to for GAP, or which alley in NYC Tommy Hillfiger is located in, closest to your subway station, you still don’t really get proper preppy fashion in the market anymore – it’s not about being the right age or the right trend, it’s more about the right vision and the correct ideas. Sexy is great like Tom Ford does because his kind of sexy can never be Roberto Cavalli-sexy, given the small matter of all of our roots is there, and that influences how we perceive things or different aspects of styling. But Marc Jacobs who famously pronounced that his fashion is anti-sexy and pro-flirty, is right at home in his own fashion line, even after departing from Louis Vuitton in October 2013, post his SS2014 fashion show.
It was a surprising move, given the high-profile nature of this particular collaboration – it spurned out various challenging concepts such as the infamous chequered frocks, the shinning runway filled with escalators, and sets-of-two gliding through it for SS2013, and partnership with American rapper, Kanye West, but never fear because Jacobs’ quirky moves are still there for everyone to see. He made headlines posing nude for his fragrance line, surrounded by golden sparkles, gold coins and all manners of richness, which was a very bold decision for a relatively young and up-and-coming fashion designer. Marc Jacobs produced his first ever fashion line for menswear, as early as 1994, followed by a second line in 2001, named Marc by Marc Jacobs. You can often see etches of legendary designers in how he moves, such as Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren, while still maintaining a strong individual sense of craftwork.
A NYC-born and bred, Jacobs grew up in difficult circumstances. His father, a former worker at William Morris died when he was only seven years old and his mother was diagnosed with an apparent incurable mental illness that led her to neglect the upbringing of all her children, for a very long time. She could not deal with the grief of losing her husband, so chose to embark dating a series of significant dominant figures in society, each of which ended in disappointment, and all these fiascos would then affect the children and displace them – Jacobs spent most of his childhood drifting from one city to the other, dabbling in both New Jersey and the gritty Bronx. Luck improved for Jacobs once he moved in with his grandmother in a Central Park West apartment, as a teenager, and before you know it he learns enough at the prestigious Parsons School of Design to win both the Perry Ellis Gold Thimble Award and the Design Student of the Year Award. He shares a very close-bond with his grandmother and considers her inputs on his creative designs and her love for aesthetically brilliant objects as valuable to the structure of his work. Early success didn’t come to him overnight though because whilst living with his grandmother, Jacobs got his first experience in fashion as a stockboy, as well as folding shirts and dressing mannequins at Charivari, a former upstate, over-the-top boutique. The staff there were fine-tuned with his talent enough to give him some good initial experience in designing a line of hand-knit sweaters, first, and later on using this experience to study at Parsons.
He launched the first ever collection for Reuben Thomas Inc., for Sketchbook, shortly after graduating from Parsons at 21, inspired by the rock-edge look of Purple Rain and the French-toned film, Amadeus. The signatory Marc Jacobs came a lot later however, in 1986, under the guidance of the American label Onward Kashiyama USA, Inc. when he created a couple of items denoted with the now, globally recognized Marc Jacobs label. After winning his first accolades from CFDA, a special relationship he seems to have carved out with the Council the last few years, he was appointed the vice-president of Perry Ellis, where he was eventually promoted to president of the brand, following the death of its founder. After toying around with the death-word in fashion – “grunge” for a Perry Ellis collection, he was dismissed from his position, which left Jacobs with no other professional capacity to showcase his work, save for the Marc Jacobs label. Following a successful showcase of menswear, he was anointed as the new creative director for LV, and it is whilst he was at this position when LV created their very first pret-a-porter line.
His perfume bottles are exclusive mostly to boutiques, titanic but quite reasonably priced, and centred around the “body-splash” concept. If you really want to grab a perfume bottle for yourself then you have to look very hard in Harrods, because even now the fragrance line is in an expansion-mode, rather than pose as a much-favourite with luxury retail stockists. Jacobs is quite the activist for gay marriage and equal rights – he once designed a shirt sold only at his stores, asking for gay marriage to be legalized. He has been the subject of a documentary film too, based on his collaboration with LV directed by French filmmaker Loïc Prigent in 1997, and went on to win the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – it’s only fair and deserving, it’s not everyday an American fashion designer takes the creative helm of a premier French fashion house! Post-LV, Jacobs signed up as the creative director for Diet Coke, where he was selected to provide the brand with a much more fun/comic/silly-adventure theme, as opposed to the very brutish and serious image the drink has with all of the constant debate surrounding it for calorific value as a fizzy drink.
Marc Jacobs selection of muses are just as diverse as his choice of cartoonish perfume bottles – one moment he jumps on the Brit supermodel bandwagon, just like most fashion designers and counts Kate Moss, to be both an inspiration and a confidante, another moment he takes Jessica Lange out of obscurity, and selects her as the new face for Marc Jacobs Beauty. With Moss, he partnered up and co-hosted a themed gala in 2009, at the Met, titled “a model and muse”, while with Lange he chose to put her on the beauty advertising campaign for the latest SS2014 and AW2014, photographed by David Sims, as well as have her star in a campaign film directed by Jacobs, and voiceover a spoken-word edition of “Happy Days Are Here Again” for the SS2014 show. Sims, collaborated with Jacobs once more for the SS2014 fashion collection, photographing a much more edgy and rebellious Miley Cyrus for the print campaign. Apart from this he once funnily enough placed the former Spice Girl and fashion designer, Victoria Beckham in an oversized shopping bag, trying to conjure her image as a reserved fashionista, who has an undying love for sky-high heels, pencil dresses and of course, the all-glamorous, sunglasses that shield her from her overbearing star-power.
Marc Jacobs is very different from a lot of the fashion society that is prevalent in his hometown – he detests the idea of creating fashion specifically with the idea of dressing any one individual. His fashion is very fluid, with their unique sense of identity and most of his clothes come-off whatever inspires him from gossip magazines, such as People or Hello! – something very random but not out of place with society today.
The NYC fashion designer’s second line is very popular in the Japanese market, which is interesting because off-late fashion there has seen a trend away from traditional attires, modernism tinted with creative spunk, and colourfully-vibrant minimalism towards more popularity for preppy and Brit fashion. Apart from having a record-breaking 285 stores across the globe, his street-smart attitude, coupled up with his posh background, means that his couture ideas are secretively self-indulgent – none of those loud and proud moments of Alexander McQueen. Jacobs has been able to explore his interest in Europe sufficiently in his own fashion lines, played around with mischievous placing of polka dots on perfume bottles, from a Minnie Mouse-style bow to a “I-want-to-be-a-fancy-ladybug-today!”, brought a much-needed revived interest in true American fashion, became one fashion designer who you can always count on for preppy style items – so whenever you are down in Madison Square Avenue, be sure to shop Marc Jacobs, he is the very definition of the arrondissement!
Marc Jacobs Mementos
Marc’s birthday? April 9.
Fashion Design School of Choice? Parsons.
Hometown? New York.
On his beloved grandmother? “I always say I lived my life with my grandmother. She was emotionally stable, and she was very encouraging to me.”
Any more fond memories from growing up in a posh suburb of NYC and as far away as possible from the puzzling and out-of-place glamour of Long Island? “I felt truly at home in Central Park West.”
Notable Awards? Menswear Designer of the Year (2002, CFDA) and Accessories Designer of the Year (2003, 2005, CFDA)