While showing her collection at the Waldorf Towers on Sunday, Victoria Beckham explained that yes, she would attend Marc Jacobs’ show on Monday night, and would seize the chance to flaunt a look from her own fledgling line rather than wear a design of his. Marc would understand. “He’s Marc Jacobs,” she said. “He’s a genius.”
Jacobs is indeed New York’s very own homegrown fashion genius, as big a luminary — and ongoing subject of fascination — as there is in this industry today. Whatever dramas, controversies and gossip may help fuel that fascination, its core engine remains the clothes. Jacobs’ work invariably succeeds in living up to his hype, even exceeding it, if that’s possible. The collection he showed on Monday provides a spectacular case in point: mob scene at the armory door swelling onto Lexington Avenue; the celeb set, Winona Ryder, J.Lo, the aforementioned Victoria B., assaulted by flashbulbs as they pushed in to their seats, and, a recent development, the communal fear shared by those arriving after nine that the show would start before they settled in.
When the lights went down, anticipation turned to instant awe. The music started, “Rhapsody in Blue,” chosen, Jacobs said, for its once-scandalous combination of classical and jazz, “something you weren’t supposed to do.” Hint? Out came Jamie Bochert done up in an elaborate compilation of sparkling tweed jacket over plaid blouse, metallic brocade skirt wrapped at the waist with glittering stripes and a checked underskirt edged in gold. The other girls followed in lavish succession, waists cinched, skirts hobbled, bustled and bowed, Stephen Jones’ boaters perched just so, looking like an eccentrically turned out lineup of latter day Gibson girls (one or two radiated Gibson grunge), more madcap than their forebears, themselves on the cutting edge of modern and social experimentation as ever dared be.
That was the essence of this collection. “Familiar but fresh,” Jacobs said, too simply. More correctly, it was like experimental theater on a vaudeville stage, a performance piece that embraced the past and ample Americana to create something spectacular and new. As for those not-supposed-to mixes, plaids, tweeds, orientalia, macramé, leather, “landscape” jewelry, multitextural bags and, as the base for it all, countless variations of brocaded glitter and shine complemented, clashed and coexisted in the most spectacular example of fabric wizardry one can recall this side of couture. There was subtle homage to Rei (a skirted short, like the one Jacobs’ wore for his bow), less subtle, to Saint Laurent (the fabric intrigue, the smokings) and elements pilfered liberally from Jacobs’ own now-vast chronicles (glam, trompe l’oeil, and on and on). It dazzled eye, imagination and spirit alike.
Jacobs is in an enviable position as a designer. He’s got megaclout, both creative and financial, a huge talent with no signs of battle fatigue and a set of, er, principles all feeding into this remarkable work, season after season. New York’s homegrown genius. “How do you compete with this?” wondered one guest exiting the show. “If I were another designer in New York I’d slit my wrists.”