“We don’t put ourselves in the sex-symbol category,” deadpans Robert Duffy.
Now, fashion fans, pinup connoisseurs and the generally curious can judge for themselves, guided by a substantial piece of hard evidence: a giant nude photograph of Duffy and Marc Jacobs, their largest organs on full display. A 6-foot-tall print, shot by Brian Bowen Smith, will be on view at the Gramercy Park Hotel on Monday. Other photos feature more commonly acknowledged sex symbols — Julianne Moore, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Hilary Swank, Dita Von Teese, Selma Blair, Carolyn Murphy, Winona Ryder, Brandon Boyd, Rufus Wainwright — as well as a group of effervescent male employees, all to be auctioned off at Jacobs’ post-show party. (At press time, Kate Moss had also agreed to pose.) In addition, $20 Ts — each celeb gets his or her own color — will be available at the party and for a limited run at all Marc Jacobs stores.
The point: to raise money and awareness, and perhaps an eyebrow or two, for the New York University School of Medicine Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group. As for those “largest organs”? The skin, silly.
“Around the time of the show, we like to use the opportunity to not only celebrate those who worked so hard but also to raise money for our charity,” says Jacobs. “This is the one Robert decided to support.”
Duffy, who spent his high school summers bronzed on the beach, was diagnosed with melanoma four years ago. He designed this project in light of that experience and to honor his recently deceased friend, Jessie Rubin M.D., a dermatologist at the NYU center. “I quit doing drugs years ago. I’ve always had safe sex since we’ve known about AIDS,” he says. “No one should die of a suntan.”
The plan for the benefit came together this summer, after Duffy ran into Murphy aglow with a perfect tan but learned it was out of an Estée Lauder bottle. “She was so tan and gorgeous, and her skin is flawless,” he says. “Obviously, if it’s from the sun, at some point she’s not going to look like that.” Nudity seemed the logical route. “It’s like, what else are you going to do for skin cancer, have everyone wearing Prada?”
This story first appeared in the September 9, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Duffy then set out to enlist his and Jacobs’ well-known friends to trade in their modesty for charity. Ryder, who has never appeared nude in print or on screen, agreed with a caveat: “If I have to [strip], you have to,” she told him. Until then, Duffy says, “It didn’t even cross my mind that somebody my age — 52 — and my size should ever pose nude.” The other subjects agreed soon after, with the originally hesitant Swank a late addition. “I wore her down,” says Duffy.
Of course, a modicum of censorship is involved, in the form of strategically placed slogans. The women’s tag line reads, “Protect the skin you’re in,” and the men’s, “Protect your largest organ.” Admittedly, a little vanity also surfaced. Thanks to Photoshop, the finished prints are missing a wrinkle here, an under-eye circle there. “I definitely had the most work done out of everyone,” says Duffy. “But Marc looks fantastic. He weighs 130 pounds.”
“No,” corrects the newly svelte Jacobs, “I weigh 135 pounds.” But that extra five aside, he was an easy sell. “Robert asked me, and I said OK,” he says. “I’m pretty OK with the way I look. Sometimes. On the right day.”