Controversy, it seems, comes naturally to Marc Jacobs. From his thought-provoking collections to last season’s late, late start—now the stuff of industry legend—consciously or subconsciously, he’s bound to spice up the circuit. This time around, things took a stranger turn, as his company, Marc Jacobs International, found itself at the center of an actual criminal investigation. Fashion tongues were set wagging due to a bribery scandal involving the 69th Regiment Armory, Jacobs’ regular show space for several years. Through its public relations firm, the company allegedly paid off the Armory’s former superintendent, James Jackson, a public employee, to secure the site. Jackson was indicted on charges of soliciting more than $30,000 since 2000 to allow the designer to use the space.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The story broke smack in the middle of fashion week, and all the major New York newspapers splashed it across their pages, but the jaded fashion community took the news in stride. “All [Jackson] was trying to do was wet his beak,” said industry veteran Paul Wilmot, owner of Paul Wilmot Communications. “He got a [Bowflex] exercise machine, not even a car. I’m happy the attorney general has unearthed this guy, but it’s pretty small potatoes.”
The controversy was all but forgotten when Jacobs closed fashion week with yet another stellar collection, accompanied by live music from Sonic Youth, and celebrity guests such as Victoria Beckham, Selma Blair and Gretchen Mol.
As for his paltry 15-minute delay, it was Jacobs who did the chastising this time, having almost been “murdered” by one flabbergasted critic after last season’s two-hour delay. “Get into your seat, Victoria,” he boomed at Mrs. Beckham with a push, urging her and other front-rowers to take their places. (As for the clothes themselves, they were a sophisticated take on sportswear with novel plays on volume. Jacobs described them as “calm, but with a bit of perversity. It’s hard-core soft core.”)
In Paris, for Louis Vuitton, still mindful of the clock, he emerged from backstage and bellowed at no one in particular that he wanted to start his show—but the message didn’t quite make it to front-row centerpiece Ziyi Zhang. The Chinese glamazon came scooting down to her seat like a cowering mouse just as the first model came pounding down the runway.