Marc Jacobs and I go way back. We started in the industry at about the same time, and in WWD’s then-idiosyncratic breakdown of which market editors covered which designers, I “got” Marc. Certainly, I have admired his work throughout his career and the ups and downs of his company and brand. Some may say too much.
But after Wednesday night’s New York Fashion Week finale, that was all beside the point, for will someone please tell me who in New York is a better designer, more creative, more provocative, more capable of delivering a thrill? And how many lists of “greatest designers in the world,” both current and over the past 30 years, would he not make? Jeez, the guy’s good.
Jacobs is an extraordinary designer, his talent part pure fashion acumen and part showmanship. Over the years, he has staged some incredibly engaging shows, the kind now called “experiential.” This one might take the cake: a band of 54 dancers under the brilliant direction of choreographer Karole Armitage comingling with 88 models in an extravaganza so exquisitely audacious and compelling and masterful that it’s a shame it was one night only. This was a museum-worthy performance-art piece — one that would sell a lot of tickets. (That the dance aspect came together in literally one week’s time — remarkable.)
“It’s ‘Drastic-Classicism, which we took from Karole,” Jacobs said during a late-night preview, referring to the dancer’s 1981 work of the same name. He then insisted he was too busy for fashion sound-bite small talk — 54-plus-88 are a lot of people to dress. But he came around, saying the show is about his hometown, quoting Liza, “Come through, New York.”
“It’s people of all ages, in stages of their lives, icons, current, past,” Jacobs said. Name them? “No, you know who they are.” Among the obvious: Swan Lee Radziwill and Gloria Steinem — and the real Miley Cyrus who walked the show, just one of the girls. Less obvious, a pink and blue evening-bedecked twosome looked like grown-up glam versions of the creepy twins of “The Shining.” “It’s more the idea of age and stages in our careers, fashion designers, people who love fashion, people we have always admired, the things we return to, the things we revisit.”
Asked if it he were waxing wistful, Jacobs protested vehemently. “No, no! Scratch wistful! It’s not romantic at all. And it’s not nostalgic, either.”
Instead, Jacobs characterized the collection as joyful, but differently so than last season’s over-the-top, maximalist romp. “It’s that idea of something that endures and returning to quality — not that we ever left it — but a really, really hard-core focus on quality and restraint. Last time was so exuberant and flamboyant and so full of joy. This is full of joy of a different, grittier variety.”
Grittier in tone and in the riotous movement that ultimately gyrated into the audience, seated at café tables. But the clothes were an in-depth treatise on sartorial refinement. There was so, so much there, all of it highly considered and impeccably crafted. Many, particularly the fabulous range of coats and jackets, could be called minimal, but not all. Certainly not the pieces crafted from 3-D silk roses. During the preview, Doina Iftode, a member of Jacobs’ “trim team” for 20 years, proudly noted that the trimmers made the red roses themselves, by hand, the finished look just one of the collection’s many wonders. More detailed description of a huge collection that ranged literally from underwear to eveningwear would be fruitless; that’s what the showroom’s for. Suffice to say, the guy’s good.