On a 91 degree Monday night at the New York Public Library during the week of the Fourth of July, Marc Jacobs hit reset on the New York runway.
A master of reading the zeitgeist, he might have thought it wasn’t the time in the world — or his in-transition business — for a lot of celebrity, fanfare and big sets. (Besides, Europe has that covered with Dior in Athens, Dior and Travis Scott, LV x Nike and on and on.)
So a 91 degree Monday in July was as good a time as any to ease back into it, give an opportunity to 80 vaccinated friends and colleagues to see each other like it was the first day back at school, put the phones down and watch an eight-minute and 36-second show.
That show was also projected live onto the facade of Bergdorf Goodman, a symbol of the place fashion holds in New York City and in Jacobs’ heart, since he first started shopping at the 57th Street landmark as a kid with his grandmother. Maybe he inspired somebody else like him to start small again.
Inside the library, the scene was muted, because, let’s be honest, you can put on a happy face, design party clothes and say the Roaring 2020s are upon us, but the virus is still lurking, New York fashion is struggling and we’re all just…trying…to…work…it…out.
“On the journey back to doing what we love most, in the wake of immeasurable loss, loneliness, fear, anxiety and uncertainty, I am reminded of why creativity is so vital to our existence,” Jacobs wrote in the show notes, explaining how the pandemic pause was a chance to reflect on what works and what has meaning — in life and, presumably, in one’s closet.
Anyone who has scrolled through Jacobs’ Instagram knows his journey back to basics involved lots of time with the dog, painting his nails and playing dress up, usually in other designers’ clothes, and always with his trusty pearls. The love he has for playing with clothes is palpable even through the screen.
And it’s that joyful, gestural impulse that carried through the fall collection — the dramatic proportions in sportswear, the everyday fisherman sweaters and flared ski pants turned special, the extraordinary color sense (red and pink and lilac?!) and the reworked black-and-white Marc Jacobs logos nearly abstracted to the point that they resembled road markings on a city street. Not flashy, but still bold.
The collection was also simple but with bravado, which has always been the American way, from Halston to Burrows to Jacobs when he took grunge and made it fashion.
The idea of concealing and revealing on scooped out acid bright bodysuits worn with flocked blanket skirts, hooded coats and down puffer gators had real spirit, and kinda said it all about how it feels to be back in the world — happy to be here but in need of some security — perhaps in the form of a faux fur security blanket, carried in hand.
Luxury was the ease of a sleeveless tunic of iridescent sequins the size of candy silver dollars over a mint green turtleneck sweater and gray trousers, a sunburst pleated caftan in brilliant yellow or a black-and-white kaleidoscopic knit dress and snood worn with a black baseball cap, New York style. The collection was also not without its signature high-low MJ charms, from haute hoods a la Grace Jones, to the silk Mary Janes like the ones you buy for $12 on Canal Street, only with elevator platforms.
In a rather unusual deal, Bergdorf Goodman has the worldwide exclusive on the collection, which will land in October in store and online, representing the first time Jacobs has had a runway collection for sale in a year, as he tries to feel the way forward for his business. “I think we’ve had him at Bergdorf since the mid-1990s, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s as much a part of the fabric of the store as the main floor chandelier,” said Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Linda Fargo of standing by him.
“He has an extra antenna to vibe out what’s needed…he wanted to bring fashion and New York alive again and that’s what he’s done,” she said. “It’s also a testament to what a runway means. For a designer, it’s more than just clothes.”
For an audience, too. It felt good to be back.