The day before Wednesday’s soft opening of Marc Jacobs’ New York pop-up store — the preferred in-house word is “residence” — the space at 655 Madison bustles. It also reveals varying degrees of readiness. The major bait, 52 ice-cream pastel mannequins (two each in one of the 26 grunge looks Jacobs re-created verbatim from his spring 1993 collection for Perry Ellis) are fully installed at street level in all their silk-plaid, Birkenstocked, knit-capped, Robert Crumbed glory.
That panorama is intentionally disorienting, with infinity mirrors multiplying the mannequin troops. Most of the figures face outward, toward the room’s perimeter. When the window boards are removed at some point tonight, the mannequins will form the window display.
“Because the space is like a glass box, when you come into the store, it should feel like you’re part of the window,” says Faye McLeod, visual creative director, LVMH, who worked with Jacobs on developing the store design. “It’s not like vitrine, vitrine, vitrine. Instead, you’re part of the grunge collection.”
The stair risers feature LED lighting with rotating brand signage — Marc Jacobs, Redux Grunge, Daisy — and on the wall opposite the door, an 80-inch screen runs grunge-related videos, both of the new marketing variety and a golden oldie — Sonic Youth’s “Sugar Kane,” featuring the original grunge collection and a boyish, long-haired Jacobs.
This first floor is pure enticement; no selling here. That’s reserved for the basement and upper levels. In the downstairs emporium of all things grunge, plaids, crochets and beaded slips hang from brass-plated, steel-floor racks arranged atop bold black-and-white carpeting in bold, concentric square patterns that extend up the walls. While most is full-on runway of yore, one rack flaunts the newly designed series of T-shirts and tote bags decorated with bold images of Robert Crumb characters: bearded Mr. Natural, big-footed Keep on Truckin’ and Squirrely the Squirrel .
Speaking of which, sometime soon, but not in time for opening weekend, sculptures of those last two guys will take up residence of their own — the larger, Keep on Truckin’, measuring a whopping 9 semi-horizontal feet. They’ll be foam fellows, but colorful, done over with automotive matte-finish paint, in mint and purple, respectively.
This area looks ready for business, sort of, aside from the woman vacuuming, the rolls of protective booties on the bottom step and the adjacent shoe area, empty but for a few pairs of essential footwear, including some from a collaboration with Dr. Martens.
The second floor — different story altogether. It’s a construction site, one soon to come together (knock wood) as a capsule of the world of Marc Jacobs: Bookmarc, beauty, special items and The Smile Café. Here, one sees the beginning of hot-pink velvet display walls that will stand in flamboyant, high-pile contrast to the austerity of the concrete floor. Despite the painting and woodworking going on everywhere, the upholstered furniture has arrived — vintage Mario Bellini “Camaleonda” seating in original green corduroy, under major plastic coverage. Around the walls: various touches including a Bookmarc sign and a big riff on Nirvana’s smiley face, which Jacobs co-opted for a T-shirt. Still in absentia: the 10 merch-centric neon pictograms that will decorate the second-floor windows.
While Madison Avenue is the largest installation of Redux Grunge, it’s not the only one. Both Saks Fifth Avenue and Dover Street Market Los Angeles have partnered with the brand for significant installations. Saks’ exhibit, in its Fifth Avenue flagship through Dec. 3, features the 17 full looks the retailer purchased — more than any other store, according to chief merchant Tracy Margolies.
In its original iteration, Jacobs’ grunge “shook the fashion world and changed the way design and modern dressing was viewed,” Margolies says. “Jacobs challenged the norm, rebelling against the status quo.” She finds the collection still “original, inspired and authentic. Marc’s way of mixing high-low and done/undone is what fashion needs, and this Redux is exactly what our customer is craving,” she says.
DSMLA’s set-up, opening on Friday, will feature a structure of deconstructed trusses housing video screens and numerous grunge looks. Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons International and chief executive officer of Dover Street Market, summed up the collection’s power succinctly. “It was an iconic groundbreaking collection when it first showed,” he says, “and beautiful, strong creations have no sell-by date.”