Like all major fashion designers, Marc Jacobs is focused on the impact of coronavirus on his company. Right now, his primary concern is his staff — “my team, my family,” he called the Marc Jacobs employees. With his brand under the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton umbrella, Jacobs knows that, at least for the foreseeable future, that family will be taken care of. But apart from the group wellbeing, Jacobs isn’t quite ready to strategize recovery. “I can’t predict the future,” he said. “I can use this time to reflect on how do we refocus a business…but I’m not there yet.”
WWD: Life is suddenly very different for all of us. How are you dealing with it?
Marc Jacobs: I have a lot of time on my hands like everybody else. I keep thinking that everybody deals with grief differently and everybody’s form of denial is different when there is a crisis. So I’m trying to be a good, sensitive person….It feels like the stages of grief, it feels like denial, it feels like panic, it feels like all of those things. It’s quite hard.
WWD: At the beginning, did you think it was overblown?
M.J.: I didn’t think it was overblown. I’ve had a much more doomsday outlook on this. I don’t want to say that I’m a pessimist, but my thoughts about all this are very realistic. I expressed them to a couple of people who found it then difficult to be around me because I was too negative, but I don’t think I’m being negative.
WWD: There’s a lot of fear, but kindness comes out, too.
M.J.: Well, it’s impossible to be black or white about this. I know that sitting here, I am very privileged. I’m in a hotel room, I have a terrace, I’m with my dogs, I still have people around who are trying to help me take care of myself, which makes taking care of myself very easy for me. I’m definitely in a place of privilege.
WWD: What are your biggest concerns for the company?
M.J.: My big concern is for my team — my family, my staff — that they are taken care of and paid to stay home safely and feel as secure as possible, knowing that our company is taking care of their needs financially, at least for the coming weeks. That’s the first thing. Then, for others. Eric [Marechalle, Marc Jacobs’ chief executive officer] and I have talked, and we, like others, are getting it together to make masks. Nick [Newbold, Jacobs’ right hand] and I talked with Danuta [Denuree, head of Collection production] about doing it. We’re waiting on supplies. Eric reached out to Danny [Martin, who oversees Asian production] to order medical supplies from our suppliers. We’re all on board with taking care of our employees and doing more of what we can to help others. That makes me hopeful.
WWD: You told me earlier that you’re making donations to anti-hunger organizations.
M.J.: I’m in a position where I can do that and comfortably. It’s a donation. And I can do other things that I can try to be of service as long as I’m being safe.
WWD: You said you’ll look into food deliveries when it’s safe.
M.J.: The food delivery is a little bit tricky because I don’t know how to do that responsibly. I have free time so I can do it [when it’s safe]. That’s what Charly [Defrancesco, his husband] and I do on Thanksgiving morning.
WWD: That it’s in your thoughts is interesting.
M.J.: One of the ways that I’ve been taught by my sponsor and by the Alcoholics Anonymous program, etc., is that one thing I can do to get out of my own head, or one thing I can do to stop being all about me or in self-pity or in fear, is to do something for someone else. The greatest way to get out of one’s self is to do something for somebody else.
WWD: Where are you right now when you think about the Marc Jacobs business, not just the bottom-line impact but also the emotional impact?
M.J.: Of course, we have to focus on that. But I’m a little bit of the feeling that I don’t know what we are going to do when we come out of this. I’m not sure what the effects will be. It kind of depends on when this ends and how much damage it does, all these things. I can’t predict the future. I can use this time to reflect on how do we refocus a business, or how do we continue [what we’ve been doing]. But I’m not there yet. I’m not far enough away from mindless TV to actually think about reality, and that’s my truth.
We in fashion, or I should say it for myself, I live in a bubble. I live in a very privileged bubble where I work the way I work and do the things I do and the priorities I have are mine because work is the biggest thing in my life and the most important thing in my life other than my relationship with Charly. It’s what I live for. So, of course, it’s of huge importance and I don’t really want to think that that’s going to change but it will have to change. Everything will have to change. To me, the biggest problem in all of this is a lack of education. We don’t pay more attention to educating people. And so then when something urgent occurs the majority of the population isn’t equipped to deal with it.
WWD: But nobody could have been equipped to deal with this.
M.J.: No, but it’s the way people respond to it, it’s their actions and attitudes. I mean, the fact that people are hoarding toilet paper is one of the most obvious demonstrations of how absurd people’s reaction or response can be.
WWD: Do you see any reason to be optimistic?
M.J.: Optimistic? I don’t think it’s the end of the world. I hope it isn’t. I don’t even have a vague idea of what it will mean. I’m sure the impact will be huge for everyone. It’s hard to — again, where I’m sitting today, in front of a TV set watching “Grey’s Anatomy” — it feels very hard to come to any real mindfulness about what the future holds.
I guess I’m like a lot of people, I’m looking for a little direction. I pray in the morning. I try to meditate. That’s something I do anyway. And I’m just trying to be careful and kind to other people, how I normally behave, right? And gloves on and clean my hands constantly and social distancing and all the rest of that that we’ve been told. It seems like logical and smart advice to flattening the curve.
WWD: Prayer and meditation. When did you discover each?
M.J.: I’ve been praying as part of the 12-steps program I practice. Meditation is also part of that practice. I’ve been doing TM for about a year. I’m not an enlightened being by any stretch of the imagination, but I stay sober and clean and I try to be of service and do the next right thing. That’s my agenda every day, whether work is on that list of next right thing or staying home is on the list of the next right thing.
WWD: Something we could all benefit from. About the business, you said you’re not in a mind-set yet to think about what to do when we come out of this.
M.J.: Again, these are just thoughts that run through my head. With or without this, business has been in a very difficult state. I know you wrote last week something about luxury not being a necessity, it’s a want and it’s a desire. But I think a little bit differently. I think what we want and what we desire are needs as well. Whether they are as urgent a need as food or water — clearly they’re not. But I have never been apologetic about my career choice.
WWD: I didn’t mean it that way.
M.J.: I think any form of creativity is a luxury that people need. Reading a good book, having a good meal, living in a beautiful place. Anything that isn’t about survival is a luxury, really. I went into the Pressed Juicery the other day. I had a conversation with one of the kids who was working there, I heard from him that he felt frightened. He wasn’t looking for a day off or a paid vacation, he’s like, “This is what I do, and I realize it’s a service and somebody has to do it.” So it’s important to be empathetic and realize that all the people working in supermarkets or delivering food or making take-out food or all that stuff, they are health workers, like you wrote in your piece. They might not be health workers in terms of working in hospitals or taking care of people who are sick, but they are servicing people who need food and medication.
WWD: So many people have said this is going to change our lives permanently. I understand about wanting to just watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” But have you thought about that, that our lives will change forever?
M.J.: Yes, and that’s the extent of it — our lives will change forever. How they will change, I do not know. I guess I’m looking for direction just like everybody else is. Our lives will change forever — what that means I’m not sure.
WWD: Where can we look for direction?
M.J.: Well there’s God. God, having faith is important in times like these, to believe and to know that you’re taken care of. It’s a little hard when you’re frightened, and faith is also a process and a practice. So that’s a tricky one to talk about with a lot of people. It’s very personal. But as I said, I feel almost reluctant to say too much in that direction because again I’m still sitting in a place of privilege where I feel like it’s easy for me to have faith because I’m really not suffering.
WWD: You are remarkably self-aware.
WWD: Are you ever fearful?
M.J.: Of course. I am extremely fearful, I mean. I’m completely afraid. In order to not be living in fear, I’m trying to be as present as possible. So what’s happening right now is I’m looking out the window and it’s sunny, the two dogs are lying on the bed, I’m having a conversation with you and in the present, in this moment, I have no fear because this is my reality. Now if I start thinking about the future, I will be living in fear.
WWD: That’s interesting.
M.J.: It’s a spiritual axiom that in this moment I have no fear. Fear is an acronym. In AA they always say it’s an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.
WWD: I probably should have heard that at some point.
M.J.: It’s an acronym and it works sometimes. I certainly don’t think like, oh yeah, in the future everything is going to be fine, like that is just not something I’m ever going to say.
WWD: So live in the present.
M.J.: That’s how I’ve kind of learned to contribute — I do my part; I keep my side of the street clean. So if I’m taking care of myself, I can physically be of service to others in some way, whether it’s talking to them on the telephone or cheering them up or asking how they are. I can be of service as long as I’m OK.
So I am taking care of myself. I’m doing the best of my ability what I have been taught, which is I wake up in the morning, I pray, I try to do the next right thing. Sometimes that next right thing is taking a shower and sitting here in front of the TV set. That’s what it is. Talking to you I feel was the next right thing at 2:45 because I think that what you’re doing, writing and passing on useful information, is important.
WWD: Thank you.
M.J.: It would be great if we continued to have enough good information at our disposal, or useful information at our disposal rather than so much panic and fear and misinformation and all this other stuff. That is in great abundance.
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