Defining Moments: Youth Quake

Leave it to Marc Jacobs to turn the volume way up.

Sonic Youth jams at Marc Jacobs.
Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Collections issue 04/07/2008

Leave it to Marc Jacobs to turn the volume way up. This season the designer asked noise-rock band Sonic Youth—fronted by his pal, Kim Gordon—to play a miniconcert at his 69th Regiment Armory show while his models walked around a sprawling makeshift stage.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Marc called me up a little over a week before the show and asked if we would like to play,” says Gordon casually. While Jacobs put in his request on short notice, he was relieved to find that the seminal rock group was available to help him illustrate a lineup he described as “calm, with a bit of perversity.”

“He said, ‘Pretend you’re playing a concert,’” Gordon recalls.

With 20 albums in their oeuvre, choosing what to play was far from easy. “He said the clothes were soft, but with some pointedness,” explains Gordon, “so he wanted us to play something that had a pop element, but was sort of dissonant, too.” They opted to open the show with “Jams Run Free” from their 2006 album, Rather Ripped, but then let the designer select their second song: “Kool Thing” from 1990’s Goo.

During the show, the singer shimmied around the stage in a silver-and-black striped Marc Jacobs dress, but the designer didn’t intend to have the band rock his threads. “Marc didn’t want it to look like we were all dressed up in Marc Jacobs,” says Gordon. “We basically tried to wear what we normally wear. I just so happen to wear a lot of Marc Jacobs onstage.” 

And if some editors found the band’s trademark screaming guitars distracting while viewing the collection (“I think Marc wanted to make it look like you had to choose between what you’re going to look at,” Gordon says), they were probably wondering what the gift bag was about: a tote and T-shirt with a black-and-white illustration by artist Raymond Pettibon of a couple with the caption “I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road.” The artwork, based on a paparazzi photo from a 1966 serial killer trial, is actually the album cover of Goo. “I think [Jacobs] was listening to that record a lot when he was working on the line,” notes Gordon.

Indeed, Jacobs has a long history with the band. The video for their hit “Sugar Kane” off 1992’s album, Dirty, was directed by Nick Egan, a friend of Jacobs, and was shot in the Perry Ellis showroom while Jacobs was designing his infamous Grunge collection. Not only did Jacobs appear in the video primping models about to take to the runway, but it also marked the first appearance of then-unknown Sassy magazine intern Chloë Sevigny.

Whether or not the fashion crowd knew it was in the presence of one of rock music’s most influential bands (“Some people clapped and others didn’t—they were like, ‘We’re at a fashion show,’” Gordon says), the performance may have garnered a few extra Sonic Youth fans. “Supposedly Posh Spice wasn’t familiar with us and she liked us,” laughs Gordon. “My daughter and her friend got stuck behind her while she was doing an interview and that amused them.” 

Would they do it again? “Probably not—it’s nice to do something once,” she says. But they do have several other projects coming up. Besides starting work on an album to be released next year, Gordon, who’s also a painter, exhibited her work last month at the KS Art gallery in New York’s TriBeCa. In mid-June, the “Sonic Youth Etc.: Sensational Fix” exhibit will open in France, featuring collaborations with visual artists, filmmakers, designers and musicians. And for those who remember Gordon’s X-Girl clothing line, which was fitted with vintage-inspired pieces popular with grrrls of the Nineties, a possible new collection is forthcoming. “I’ve been talking with people, but I don’t want to say much about it,” she demurs. “Everyone has a line of clothes now.”