By  on January 28, 2008

As fashion week approaches, get ready for a stronger and perhaps fiercer Marc Jacobs.Not that the sometimes mercurial designer is angry. In fact, he appears happy and more confident. How that will be relayed into his collection remains to be seen, but it definitely piques one's interest."Some people think I've lost my mind," Jacobs said during a sit-down dinner party for some 400 people to celebrate the Marc by Marc Jacobs opening on North Damen Avenue in Chicago. "But I feel good. I feel very strong."Not just physically — in the sense that he's often up at 6 a.m. for a 30-minute run on the treadmill and adheres to a strict diet of avoiding white flour, sugar and dairy following a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis — but in the sense of himself, as well."In the past, I've been very quiet," he said. "Now I'm just being very honest. I don't know if people are ready for that."Jacobs is. After the controversy surrounding the two-hour delay of his September show, the designer makes no excuses. "I've learned over the years to first please myself," he said, "because you can't please everyone."Now he takes pleasure in doing a little shopping and appreciating his healthier, fit appearance. In his earlier, heavier days, "I didn't like shopping," he said. "After years and years of just working, you forget about indulging one's self."On this night, he shows a penchant for diamonds, wearing three sizeable diamond studs in one ear, a single hefty one in the other, along with an almost tennis bracelet-like diamond necklace around his neck. "I enjoy how I look," he added.Not that his life is without its stresses: His recently dyed blue hair requires weekly upkeep, he's preparing for fashion week on the heels of the Paris shows and, in the meantime, he's growing his retail presence.The company currently operates 21 Marc by Marc Jacobs stores, with at least four new international locations set for this year, and runs 23 Marc Jacobs Collection boutiques, with five new Collection stores slated to open this year.The retail part he leaves mostly to Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs. "We have a mutual trust for each other," he said. "If he's opening a store in Turkey, I'm not wondering what that is."Jacobs admits, however, that the pressure to create a spectacular collection is acute. "It's more painful for me than it ever was," he said. "But I'm happiest when I'm working. If I wanted the easy life, I'd make tablecloths or napkins. They never change."

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