Alienation — a theme in art, literature, middle school and everyday life beyond middle school. It happens. It’s happening at Marc Jacobs, according to the guy with his name on the door. During a preview of his spring collection, Jacobs noted the takeaway gleaned from a vaguely referenced focus group: Its members found his fall advertising “alienating.” “Apparently, people who look at advertising aren’t necessarily the people who buy the product,” he said. “When they see someone like Susan Sarandon with gorgeous cleavage in one of our dresses or they see perhaps Marilyn Manson or Courtney Love, they’re a little intimidated by the black eyeliner or whatever. I don’t really know.”
What he does know: that his belief in real fashion is resolute, even as the company continues to reestablish its commercial footing into its single-brand strategy, with a range from intensely imagined and realized high fashion to its contemporary cousin.
What we know: Jacobs is — as he claims — a passionate adherent to real fashion. And he loves a contrast. So even if the alienation theme hadn’t percolated in-house, it’s doubtful he would have considered another big, dark extravaganza. “I felt we should do something friendlier, kinder, pretty, lots of prints. Except,” he deadpanned, “I did it my way.”
His way proved a frenetic rave affair with models done up in abbreviated pilings of color and stuff, their hair in elaborate pastel dreads inspired by Jacobs’ friend Lana Wachowski and created by the masterful Guido Palau and web-sourced dreadlocks expert Jena Counts. The clothes sprung from deliberate banality — jeans; sweats; camouflage; knits; little dresses, and that girl-on-the-street item du jour, the shortest short-shorts — most of the silhouettes translatable across the full gamut of prices.
Yet whether channeling Goth Victorians or raving street-style enthusiasts with a penchant for Seventies cuts and Eighties flash, Jacobs’ perspective is an extravagant one. That extravagance incorporated some trappings of couture — flamboyant feathers sprouting from jacket shoulders; endlessly intricate embroideries sourced from some of haute’s most storied suppliers. He also commissioned his friend, artist Julie Verhoeven, with whom he collaborated at Louis Vuitton back when, and whom he called “more twisted than I am” when it comes to exploration of the banal. Together, they conjured fanciful, random insignias of his party mood: New York skyline, old-fashion phone, hairdryer, electrical outlet, phallic mushrooms. And to capture the “clubby vibe”: pills. In a riot of colors and materials, these decorated jackets, a fabulous snakeskin coat, bags and mile-high platform boots, the collection’s most recognizable reference to last season. (Despite his thematic swings, in recent seasons, Jacobs has made a point of incorporating the numerous and distinct recurring themes of his work.)
Broken down, many of the clothes were beautiful. In aggregate, it was fun at a fevered pitch, much of it underscored by a clear current of defiance. “I like this very twisted version of what I think is reality,” Jacobs said. “Because reality is just reality.”