“Take it to the runway,” Marc Jacobs pronounced during a preview. On Wednesday night, he did just that, with a fearless endorsement of the kind of fashion about which he’s passionate – demonstrative, audacious, at times over-the-top.
Once again, Jacobs showed his collection with his brand mired in chatter. Two weeks ago, the company confirmed the hiring of designer John Targon, his role thought to focus on the contemporary side of the business. But since the company did not clarify his position, the speculation percolated. Meanwhile, Jacobs is crystal clear on where to focus his efforts. “No street-inspired clothes here,” he said, before running off a list of what he would show. “Jewel tones. Sumptuous fabrics. Eye makeup and nail polish that match. Incredible hats by Stephen Jones. Accessorized from the top of the head to the bottom of the foot. These are runway clothes. I don’t know what happens afterward, but they’re runway clothes. That’s what I do. That’s what I’m doing.” His near-militant tone softened. “I’m very happy doing it, by the way. I love doing this.”
That love is informed by fashion history and fandom. Here, Jacobs made his case for real fashion, fashion that’s not diluted or dumbed down, with an all-out, obvious homage to one of fashion’s greatest gods, and, at his height, most daring innovators, Yves Saint Laurent, an inspiration to Jacobs from Day One. This was Saint Laurent on steroids (with nods to one or two other designers), as Jacobs exploded proportions and dazzled with an audacious color sense to rival Saint Laurent’s own: maroon fake-fur chubbie over navy blouse, orange pants and purple sash; jade coat over hot pink blouse and berry-colored leather skirt (or was it pants?). Jacobs kept most volumes huge, the shoulders of myriad coats and jackets cut big, bigger, biggest, over high-waisted skirts and cropped, pleated pants, rounded through the hips. The grand stroke was everywhere, in huge flowers at the neck of a blouse or at the waist; a dolman sleeve with trumpet cuffs; an ebullient pouf on the bodice of a gown; high-drama, flat-brimmed hats. Occasionally, Jacobs worked in a body-con moment, dresses that lost volume but not impact.
The Park Avenue Armory pulsed with wonder as the models walked its length, their attitude as overstated as the clothes themselves, exciting but the antithesis of easy. A collection like this cries out for artful merchandizing, lest its power fall prey to banal commercialization that ultimately bears little connection to the original statement. As recently installed chief executive officer Eric Marechalle develops his strategy for the brand, this felt like Jacobs making a case for the power of real fashion – and guts.