From 10+ Issue Two: Ten Meets the Inimitable Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs AW85, New York
It’s two weeks before his wedding – an epic, star- spangled New York affair (think the Met Gala with confetti) – but Jacobs isn’t showing any hint of prenuptial nerves. He’s relaxed, smiling, neatly coiffed and enviably smooth. There’s a lightness to his attitude and he’s in the mood to talk, especially about the future of his business.
Jacobs is forthright and honest, but you can see the wheels turning in his head before he opens his mouth. His soundbites are pithy but considered. Once he gets going about his work and industry, his eyes widen and lock you in, as does his candid, irresistible bravado. And while he seems more than comfortable showing all his cards, there’s a feeling he’s saving a few up his sleeve for later, a quality that has helped solidify his status as one of America’s most visionary fashion designers. With his stunning repertoire of finely tuned, often hyper- proportioned silhouettes that have referenced everything from his own past as a 1980s artsy downtown scenester to the Victorian age to the Swinging Sixties, he keeps us wanting more.
“Everybody loves a box, and then they love to put a label on the box. For almost 30 years… I can’t tell you that we stand for dressing the working woman, or that we are here to fix your wardrobe needs, or what drives me is the creation of the avant-garde,” he says. “I’m much more instinctive, and I maybe have a shorter attention span. I’m always changing.” That constant evolution is what makes Jacobs such a compelling fashion figure. What will he do next?
As well as getting married, 2019 is all about business for Jacobs. His empire, which also includes make-up and fragrance, has seen waves of change, notably the shuttering of the popular Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line in 2015. Yet he remains realistic, anything but jaded, and fully focused on the next chapter. Under CEO Eric Marechalle (formerly of Kenzo), Jacobs has compiled a think-tank of long-time industry friends, collaborators and muses such as Sofia Coppola, stylists Katie Grand and Elissa Santisi, and Colette’s Sarah Andelman to help define the next step by diving back into the brand’s tried and true ethos.
Last autumn, Jacobs reissued the Perry Ellis grunge runway collection that infamously put him on the map 25 years prior. “It felt like a timely idea, regardless of what else was going on at the time in terms of our business,” he says. This summer, the reorganisation of the business continues apace with the debut of a new, more democratically priced, youthful line. Called The Marc Jacobs, named after his personal Instagram handle, it features colourful rugby sweaters, wide-leg corduroy trousers, rain macs, charm necklaces and comic-book and smiley-face prints. If Jacobs’s runway shows serve up glittering high-fashion fantasy, this new line is a cool but wearable reality we can all buy into.
“We thought about where the brand could grow and change,” says the designer, referring to his new label as “The” for short. “I’ve always gone back to the things that we consistently redesign or re-colour, or change the proportion of, like the hoodie and the ’40s dress, how we would update them now,” he says. “Sofia [Coppola] has been with us since the beginning and she’s always saying, ‘Oh, this blouse you made way back in the day, I’d really love that again,’ or ‘My girls really love that,’ and ‘I wish I could have that in another colour.’ So, it just started to evolve from that.”
Rather than a simple doling out of his greatest hits, The Marc Jacobs is a much more thoughtful reflection of his life’s work. It’s item-driven, with the design of each piece infused with the Jacobs DNA, then finessed and focused for ultimate 21st-century IRL appeal. It’s the designer’s elegant answer to the question of how we dress and shop today. To bring in new blood and a fresh perspective to launch The, Jacobs hired Lotta Volkova, the Russian stylist known for her work with Demna Gvasalia on Vetements and Balenciaga, to style the lookbook and campaign imagery shot by Hugo Scott, one of Jacobs’s own creative team. The pair shot the collection on real-life, streetcast twins. “It’s nice to have a different point of view and someone to throw a wrench into the rules,” he says. “There has always been a mentality [in the brand’s history] of, ‘We’re going to do it our way’ in terms of the clothes we make, the way we show them and to whom we show them and further on into production, and I felt that again. It’s freeing to feel that confident for the first time in a while.”
It’s also freed him to push his catwalk collections in ever more creative directions. This optimistic assurance is evident in Jacobs’s spring 2019 collection: refined, grown-up, yet still infused with his signature dark playfulness. And while other New York designers of late have opted to show in Paris or do simple presentations or even just a lookbook, Jacobs – who has a reputation for pulling off some of the most thoughtful and over- the-top runway presentations – believes the fashion show is anything but obsolete. “It’s short-sighted to make those kinds of statements. It happens every other year. Somebody says couture is dead, then they get very excited about the couture shows they’ve just watched,” he says. “I love the tension, emotion and intimacy. It’s a little piece of theatre that creates the appropriate buzz.”
The show, and specifically its front row, is also a great coming together of the Marc Jacobs community. Since the growth of social media, we’ve seen every major fashion house compete for the perfect “squad”. Jacobs, however, has always been a great curator of interesting people, and what sets the Marc clan apart is that the relationships always feel genuine, with a tangible love and respect on both sides, rather than like a business transaction. He likes to throw in the odd surprise (remember K-Fed?) and also bucks the industry’s ageist status quo by dressing young and old alike, from newbies on the scene like Rowan Blanchard, Kacey Musgraves and Lizzo to quirky, established talents such as Tracee Ellis Ross and Sarah Paulson, to legends such as Cher and Bette Midler.
Jacobs spent 16 years at Louis Vuitton, a tenure that in this age of the three-year creative director contract seems an impossible dream. What’s his take on fashion’s game of designer musical chairs? “That’s been going on for a while. There’s more exposure to it, so it’s a faster conversation,” he says. “Even back in the ’70s, Karl Lagerfeld and Gianni Versace consulted for different companies. I think we’re just exposed to everything so much more and faster that we think it’s worse or different. It’s just a new version of the same old shit.” What has changed, though, is the cultural temperature – with the heat turned up by social media. Fierce debates over political correctness and design plagiarism accompany every show season. Call-out culture is rampant, and Jacobs has not escaped the angry mob. On the topic of cultural appropriation, something he found himself accused of in 2016, when his models sported rainbow dreadlocks, he says, “We all have to be more sensitive in the world we live in, and I don’t know how I feel about it in terms of staying in your own lane and how it affects creativity. I do know a lot of creative people who feel creativity is about being able to look into and investigate and imagine anything. That might be what it’s about, but in this world we live in today, that might come with some consequences.”
Even before the dawn of social media, Jacobs’s personal life was public fodder, with the tabloids documenting everything from his one-night stands to his fitness regimen and addiction issues. He took things in his tenacious stride. “I got help finally because I admitted that I had no power to cure this on my own. And then what I learnt as part of that process was that you’re only as sick as your secrets. Revealing these truths about myself took the hurt out, beating them to the punch,” says Jacobs, who has the word “Shameless” tattooed on his chest (it’s also the name of a bestselling foundation in his beauty line). His extreme candour is empowering. “I went to some event after I had a hair transplant and people were like, ‘What, you in a baseball cap?’ And I was like, ‘I had a hair transplant! What do you want?’ Then people wrote from these baldness societies saying, ‘Somebody has to stand up for men’s baldness,’” he says. “I’m not going to be anyone’s poster boy, I’m just honest about my truth and my past. I get Botox and get injections and filler.”
He is also very open about his love life. “I kissed a lot of frogs and I finally met a prince,” Jacobs coos about his husband, Char Defrancesco. The couple made headlines last year when Jacobs proposed with a flash mob at a Chipotle in New York, tying the knot in April in Huntsman suits. “And that sounds corny and stupid, which it is. But I’m very happy. And I believe we have a great future together,” he says.
Next on the couple’s agenda: setting up their new life in a house they recently bought in Rye, New York. “I’ve never lived outside the city. And it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house, so I’m pretty obsessed,” says the designer, who loves watching Netflix documentaries with Defrancesco and their dogs Neville, Charlie and Lady.
And though it seems like everything is falling into place for Jacobs, he jokes that things may not be what they seem. “The biggest misconception about me is that I have my shit together,” he quips. He pauses. “I don’t know actually if people think that. I said to my psychiatrist the other day, ‘You don’t understand how difficult it is for me to make choices and decisions.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t think that’s how the world sees you.’ To which I replied, ‘I don’t think the world really knows me.'”
10+ ISSUE TWO – EVERYONE, VOCAL, TOGETHER is available to order HERE.