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The New Grunge – Marc Jacobs

One could argue that with the world in turmoil, the timing is perfect for such a display, but runway politicking has never been Jacobs' forte.

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Marc Jacobs: “I’m furious,” Marc Jacobs said the night before his show, grousing again about the early calendar. “And I don’t know who to be mad at.” Jacobs might as well have been talking about the collection he would show on Monday, as it, too, was furious — a furious explosion of ebullient fashion delivered in a blatant treatise on latter-day grunge.

One could argue that with the world in turmoil, the timing is perfect for such a display, but runway politicking has never been Jacobs’ forte. Nevertheless, the moment Karen Elson emerged to open the show, her pregnancy barely apparent under a girlish mossy green smock, the mood just felt right, the ladylike fluff elsewhere turning anemic in comparison. The muse here was a flesh-and-blood relative of last fall’s Violet Incredible, a girl ready to direct her pent-up angst at no one in particular. Yet — and this is where Jacobs has always diverged from genuinely angry designers — the edge is never truly aggressive. Even at their least frilly, Jacobs’ collections always have a glimmer of optimism; he doesn’t do hard. To him, the moody palette and endless layers were about the realities of dressing for cold weather in a modern, casual way, and for all the dissonance of multiple textures and patterns, in the end, cozy trumped combative. Still, there’s no question that since the huge success of his girly tweeds awhile back, Jacobs has focused on de-prettying his lineup.

He showed against a stunning skyline set, conceived and constructed in under a week by Stefan Beckman, to the mesmerizing serenity of Philip Glass music. His girls wore piles of stuff, from their overgrown sequined berets and fur hats down to those demonized, late-arriving shoes; in fact, this collection had as much going on from the knees down as some others do head-to-toe. And it featured more references than Funk & Wagnalls: “It’s all the designers I love, the people I know, all tossed together,” Jacobs said. For starters, read Rei Kawakubo, Yves Saint Laurent, and the great sportswear pioneers of Seventh Avenue, along with Sofia, Winona and Rachael. There were jackets over sweaters over dresses over pants over thick legwarmers over lacy leggings and on and on, each look revealing surprises upon discretion. For example, along with the delicate dishevelment of filmy black gowns, Jacobs also cut evening columns from murky wool plaid. Coats came half fur and half wool; tony knits trailed extravagant appendages; tunics and skirts took shape from seemingly random knots. And there were bags, bags, bags, because emergency skylines don’t come cheap.

Once again, this collection triggered wildly differing opinions, as some in the audience found all the stuff too much. But sometimes too much is wonderful, especially when the individual pieces are so exquisite. Still, one vocal critic saw room for improvement. “I’m still mad,” Jacobs said back at the Armory on Tuesday before his Marc by Marc Jacobs show. “With more time, it could have been better.”

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