So let’s tell the world about it now

Happy days are here again

Emotion courses through Marc Jacobs’ work; it always has. The show Jacobs staged on Thursday night was his first since the ending of his tenure at Louis Vuitton. His house is now at a critical transition point as it prepares for an IPO — never a cakewalk, but perhaps even more fraught for a company that has always operated more on gut feeling than textbook strategy. It’s not surprising then, that emotion raced through Jacobs’ show that brought the New York season to a provocative close.

It was beautiful — chic, unfettered and, typical of Jacobs, a reversal of last season’s dark, highly embellished Victorian melodrama. “There’s always a reaction to the thing before, the idea of wanting to see things that seem fresh and unadorned,” Jacobs said during a preview. “I wanted to keep it very light, very soft, very fresh, and a very neutral palette with just slight hints of color, cosmetics colors.”

Light in color, soft to the touch. Yet this was no festive romp, but a sober illumination, disquieting even, with a subtext of maturation. “We looked at women like Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange,” Jacobs said. “Women we admire and respect and who have a sort of strength without any aggressivity, and without it being a discussion about youth.”

The set featured an arrangement of voluptuous clouds — 400 soft-sculpture puffs suspended from the Armory rafters. Picture-book pretty upon arrival, they threw ominous shadows as the show progressed. And on the soundtrack, the Depression-era anthem, really more a statement of resolve than of fact, “Happy Days are Here Again,” given in eerie recitation by Lange.

The barefaced models wore blunt-cut wigs secured with wide headbands, their countenance suggesting turmoil beneath the serene facade. Spareness ruled in side-slit dresses and tunic-and-pants pairings that strode the Sixties. These came in blocks of soft hues — ivories, pinks, peaches, taupes, browns — with interesting curved seaming. Jacobs worked in racy, lean ribbed-knit tunics over matching stovepipe pants and cozied up the calm with amazing mink bombers in soft degradés of color. The mood grew bolder with higher-contrast short dresses and over-the-knee boots that had, despite the stated sartorial platform of nonaggression, a hint of she-warrior.

Still, Jacobs preferred calm over conflict. After a brief moment of crystal pizazz, evening turned lyrical with some dresses crafted from gentle organza tiers and others hand-painted in deft imitation. Either way, they were exquisite.

As for the bags, they were mostly classic, IPO-friendly shapes in ultraluxurious suede, box calf, ostrich, shirred mink, python. Happy days here again? Fashion wise, through fair and stormy weather, they never left.