NEW YORK--Track shorts may be evocative of the Seventies in the way that punk is considered an Eighties look and grunge heralds from the early Nineties, but to the aesthetic mind of Marc Jacobs, these elements of fashion are all as timeless as a twinset. Jacobs doesn't like to hear these--or any--labels used to describe his new secondary collection, Marc by Marc Jacobs, shown here in an exclusive preview. The line, which will open on Tuesday with a presentation at the Stuart Parr Gallery, is big on items, lean on proportions and infused with plenty of the light-hearted exuberance that characterized his early, post-Parsons collections. Its launch marks a huge step for the designer, not only from the standpoint of its size, but also in terms of the departure it takes from his influential signature collection, home of the $800 cashmere T-shirt. Priced somewhere between the department store classifications of bridge and better--Jacobs isn't fond of those words either--the new line is filled with references to his style, with distressed military coats with big buttons, corduroy skirts and smocking details on knit T-shirts. Although it is tempting to trace these looks to their respective fashion eras, especially given the distinctly Eighties feel of the styling, Jacobs resists. Just as he did when referring to a heap of primary-colored banana hair clips, gumball berets and giant red plastic dice piled in a corner of his showroom, they're to be used in a photo shoot by Juergen Teller that will be part of the marketing launch and presentation. "Plastic dice are not an Eighties thing," Jacobs said. "You could always buy them downstairs." In fact, some of these items still bore price tags from Kmart, proving his point. But they also actually help to sum up the theme of Marc, which is basically a collection of little treasures from throughout fashion history, each rewritten in Jacobs's hand-writing. A classic blue parachute jumper, for example, is shirred from neck to toe and styled for this occasion with red bobby socks and the plastic dice. "So (Norma) Kamali did it in the Seventies," Jacobs said. "The Air Force did it before Norma. It all comes from a classic kind of place." That's where the parameters for the Marc collection came into play, as Jacobs said this line was conceived to be both sophisticated in terms of design and "accessible and affordable." "There is more of a sense of frivolity, so that the pieces are easy to buy, with lots of found items rather than a designed collection," he said. "It's a wardrobe of T-shirts, sweaters, young things that girls all over the place will want to wear. It doesn't matter what fashion is into, whether it's the Seventies or Eighties. If you find a great pair of shorts at a flea market, you just buy them." The line marks Jacobs's return to the secondary market in the U.S., since introducing Marc Jacobs Look in 1995. That line closed in the U.S. after two years,but has since sold successfully in Japan, manufactured there by his longtime partners Mitsubishi and Renown Look. That collection will also be replaced by Marc by Marc Jacobs with the spring launch. Retail prices will average from $80 to $300, with T-shirts starting around $40 and leather items, from $500 to $1,000. The Marc collection is the first start-up in that price range with financing by Louis Vuitton North America, which took a one-third stake in Jacobs's business in 1997. Sources estimated Vuitton has planned at least a $25 million investment in the Marc business over the next three years. Carolyn Risoli, who joined Marc in February as president of women's ready-to-wear from Dana Buchman, where she was also president, and Robert Duffy, Jacobs's business partner, would not discuss projections for the line. Risoli said that the launch is planned to retain some of the exclusivity associated with Jacobs's signature line, with a roll-out to 85 doors and with some exclusives to stores in key cities. It will also be launched with a print campaign and potentially, a shop-in-shop format at some retailers, although those details have not yet been determined, she said. As for the breadth of the collection, Risoli and Barry Miguel, president of the men's rtw line for Marc, for which a launch date has not been determined, said the line was conceived with several deliveries organized around different color schemes. Back in January, when Jacobs first talked about the secondary collection, he said that the colors would not be "so commercial. You don't have to do red, white and blue," he quipped, taking a dig at some of the established players in the mainstream American market. Yet perusing the racks of Marc in the showroom reveals plenty of those colors. "But it's not a red, white and blue cliche," Jacobs explains. "I meant that you don't have to do red, white and blue in an Americana way that says, 'Yes, we went sailing with the American family,' or 'We're part of ghetto-fabulous America.' This is not like a volleyball game. It's not Labrador retriever." Jacobs thinks Marc will have diverse appeal. Certainly the collection includes a wide range of looks, from a cotton satine trench coat with frayed edges to cut-and-sew T-shirts and knit sleeveless sweatshirts with rolled sleeves and an "MJ" embroidered within the varsity stitch. There's also lots of denim, with washed and pressed-in creases, clear "jellies" jackets with ribbed cotton necklines, laser-cut leather with a Spirograph-inspired "bones" print and a range of accessories, such as wide terry-cloth belts and leather handbags. Even Marc footwear ranges from casual corduroy boat shoes and pumps styled like Converse "Chucks" to more formal leather styles with cut-outs shaped like stars. Some looks are taken directly from seasons past and others, such as the sneaker pumps, play with materials and ideas that might have been considered too downstream for Jacobs's signature collection. The designer is pretty sure mainstream America--at least women with an independent spirit--will get what this collection is about. "I'm over fashion do's and don'ts," he said. "It's all so surreal, the whole conversation, anyway. The right thing on the wrong person is ironic and the wrong thing on the right person is ironic. It's always on to the next season anyway."
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