There’s grunge and there’s grunge. Deep into his contractnegotiations with Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs chose to revisit the themethat years ago catapulted him from must-see wunderkind status intolegendary unemployment. Whether during the design process for thecurrent collection he saw irony or provocation in that connection, whoknows?
A full 20 years have passed. Grunge is no longer thelatest obsession of disaffected youth, and Jacobs, no longer young (hisbig 5-0 hits next month). Yet many of the same influences continue toinform his aesthetic. That said, in recent years he’s preferred not toinvoke the G-word — a rare self-edit he dispensed with during a previewon Tuesday evening. “I don’t want to use certain words, but…” he said,“there’s a kind of decadent, eccentric, grungy glamour going on here.”
Itproved masterful transformation of a concept — or elements of a concept— into something light years removed from its expected context. In hisshow on Wednesday, Jacobs veered far from the gritty, undone reality ofthe genre into a land that was luxe, sophisticated and refined, perhapsdespite itself. And this being Paris, he worked in what he called “adirty Left Bank feeling.” While his Perry Ellis grunge was feisty andfun (at least pre-pink slip), this was lyrical and melancholy, pickingup on the wistfulness of Jacobs’ New York runway.
There, heshowed under an enormous, imposing sun; here, he moved his story lineinside, into a circular “hotel” constructed within the vast tent pitchedin a Louvre courtyard. The wallpapered corridor housed 50 closed doors(one for each of his years, he said), which the models opened andexited. He thus turned the audience into a conclave of involuntary butinsatiable voyeurs, as each “room” featured projections of hotel guestslounging and getting dressed, unaware of the scores of peering eyes. Itplayed like a film noir jewel, its multiple leading ladies each with amysterious backstory of her own.
And, along with her backstory, achoppy Anna Magnani coif and a fabulous outfit. As in New York, Jacobsfocused on the intimate sartorial gesture, here slips, pajamas, robes dechambre. These were paired with some of the season’s best coats andjackets, worn in oddball combinations — proportions deliberatelyawkward, colors sometimes off.
The pieces were invariablygorgeous, the results of that happy pairing of a great talent and megaresources: a herringbone pattern made entirely of embroidered sequins;voluptuous robes lined in marabou. Some coats came in cashmere with deepborders of dégradé sequins; others, in thick silk printed to resembleEnglish tweeds. Some details remained invisible from the runway. Onefabric was hand-frayed to resemble flocking, while others featuredfloral prints and lace that were actually meticulously embroideredfeathers. The latter came in on a pair of delicate dresses, one worn byKate Moss, whose cinematic look added another layer of drama.
Ofcourse, any heroine worth her Vuitton billing has a great bag. Thistime, there wasn’t a logo in sight; rather, Jacobs interpreted thehouse’s classic shapes in tony materials — croc, python, mink andhand-curled goose feathers — often finished with carved ebony or woodenhandles.
The show pulsed with emotion. Lest anyone wonder howpersonal it felt to Jacobs, he took his bow in silk pajamas (these, in aprint by the Chapman Brothers, from Vuitton’s recent men’s collection),which have replaced the kilt as his daywear of choice. Suggestive ofthe aforementioned decadence and eccentricity? Sure. But those arepartial descriptives. Jacobs is also a savvy designer who here delivereda lineup of stellar commercial clothes.
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