In what was his second Q&A this week, Marc Jacobs got up close and personal with Fern Mallis Wednesday night at 92Y in New York.
During their 90-minute chat, the designer sailed through his New York childhood, punching the clock at Fiorucci (where he introduced himself to Calvin Klein) and later at Charivari (where he met Perry Ellis, who told him to go to Parsons) early on, and rehashing the many speed bumps he and Robert Duffy hit en route to fashion’s fast lane. The designer was quick with the jokes whether discussing his teenage work days in the William Morris Agency’s mail room — “not real good about delivering, picking up things, getting things to the right people on time” — or his daily no-fail two-hour workout: “At David Barton, they sure look great. That is a very nice way to spend the morning. Believe me.”
But he also mentioned such somber topics as his father’s death at 32, losing touch with his sister and brother and telling Bernard Arnault that he was checking into rehab. But from his 33 tattoos to his career moves, Jacobs said, “I have no regrets about anything — nope.”
As for the prospect of following John Galliano at Christian Dior, Jacobs said he was flattered but he “never dreamed of being a couturier and thinks it would be a very difficult place to work.” “It was actually my psychiatrist who said, ‘How is this going to improve the quality of your life?’ and I said, ‘It’s not.’ I mean, two more shows — and after Galliano, what he has done — when am I going to live my life?”
Jacobs also dished about having his social life played out on Page Six. “I love attention….Maybe my desire for attention is a little too out of control, but I’m very honest. I love attention.” Regarding his nixed engagement to Lorenzo Martone, Jacobs said, “He asked me to marry him and then he broke up with me. Everybody thinks I’m the bad guy, but he just changed his mind.” The two are now best friends, and Jacobs said he and his boyfriend, Harry Louis, are in love.
As for hiring Tom Ford to work at Perry Ellis, he said, “Tom is Tom. What can you say? No, he was amazing. I think he is incredibly talented still.”
After seeing a magazine cover of Victoria Beckham with a fake Louis Vuitton, he sent her the real deal and the two became friends. On swaying the naysayers at Louis Vuitton, Jacobs said, “I don’t know if I won them all over but I guess I won because none of them are there anymore. I’m not a bitch or anything like that but things happen, you know. I have been there 15 years. I don’t know if I’ll be there another 15 or another five days, but those people who were not for me have moved to new places.”
Regarding his sobriety, Jacobs said, “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent sober. What I’m saying is perfection is not my deal. Yeah, maybe I have had a glass of wine or a couple of whiskeys. Maybe I’ve smoked a joint or something like that. Or other things, but I’m mostly sober.”
He was equally hard-hitting about critics. “Yeah, I’m a human being. I get hurt, too. There are very few, and I don’t mean this in a bitchy way, journalists who I respect. I don’t think a lot of them know what they’re looking at. I don’t sometimes feel the criticism is valid. I’m fine with constructive criticism but I’m not so good with stupidity. It’s one thing to say ‘I like or I don’t like’ but to misread or mislabel something or to be out of sorts because it was raining, or a late show or you were hungry. That just all feels not valid.”
That said, Jacobs added he is not as insecure as he once was, but “I look over my shoulder and I always think somebody is doing it better.”
“Living in the past or living in the future — those aren’t real. The moment is now and that’s where safety and comfort and all that good stuff is,” he continued. “So, I’m not comparing myself to somebody else. I don’t need to be better than anybody or worse than anybody to feel better about myself. I just need to stick on my own path and stay in the moment as best I can.”
Present-minded as he is, there were a few old tales worth telling. Jacobs recalled sitting beside Bill Blass at a lunch at Veronica Hearst’s house years ago and asking, “Do you think I can smoke?” Blass told him, “Go ahead, smoke. Believe me you won’t be invited back if they don’t want you back, but it won’t be the smoking that is the reason.” (Jacobs wasn’t invited back, but he doesn’t think it was due to the cigarettes or his behavior. He said, “I’m not real close to Veronica Hearst.”)
Imagining the future was another story. As for his bucket list, Jacobs said, “What’s that?” Once clued in, he said, “More. Of all. Have more sex. Eat more food. Go to the gym more often. Do more collections. Have a manicure. Buy more art. See more art.”
Jacobs said he is unfazed by his upcoming 50th birthday. “I think I’ll just be in a bathing suit on a beach somewhere drinking coconut water.”
The inevitable tips-for-young-designers question led to: “I don’t give advice but I can share my experience. What’s worked for me is not quitting, being more passionate about what I do and not giving up,” Jacobs said. “And when I don’t believe in myself turning to other people who believe in me.”
To keep himself in check, he has a “Perfect” tattoo on his right wrist. “That comes from, ‘I am a perfect being in a perfect world where everything that happens benefits me completely.’ That is something that I learned in rehab. I thought it was a very good way of letting go and saying, ‘Things may not go the way I want them to but I’m happy with things and everything is where it is supposed to be.”