New York’s favourite son did what he does best: to those designers he loves, he paid homage, exaggerated to the hilt
Marc Jacobs, what have we said about you that we have not already said? Seventies—check; Yves Saint Laurent—check; Comme des Garçons—check. Especially YSL and CDG—check, check. As a follower of SOTD said to us recently, “Marc’s two gods: Yves and Rei”. So it’s no surprise that the runway of the spring/summer 2019 collection was again the altar in honour of his two idols. It is not clear if Mr Jacobs communes with them alone, or together with those who admires him, but it is certain he is not vague about who he worships. Non-believers be damned.
How do you fault such aesthetic conviction? You can’t. If we can have idols, why not he? From his collection for Perry Ellis in 1988 to the present, Mr Jacobs has always played fanboy, not a shy one cheering soundlessly at the sides, but an ebullient ringmaster who can pile on the spectacle. And he did not pull back with the current collection, celebrating the excesses of the designers he loves with even more fulsomeness. Some people called the collection a “feast for the eyes”, but have the eyes not feasted enough? Or, is fashion only fashion when it allows one to feast on it?
To be sure, Mr Jacobs can offer a smorgasbord. Even if it’s a mash-up that the Italians can outdo, he holds his own by depending less on the unnecessarily weird or the outright geeky or the matriarch-gone-mad. Mr Jacobs, after Louis Vuitton, is in post-French couture state of mind. In addition, he stays true to his identity as a club kid; he susses out and absorbs what he sees in a crowd or in the crowded recesses of his mind, then works them into his clothes by mixing the contents abstracted from different sources the way a DJ would mix his edits, tapping from classical music to even folk songs for a borderless ‘bootleg’ that can be intoxicating for those who dig such overlay and overplay.
And it was with this exuberance, not any vestige of originality, that Mr Jacobs was able to fascinate. And the overwrought result this season, for many fashion types, was no less able to captivate. This is all the more remarkable because Marc Jacobs has not scored favourably with consumers this past years. So perceptible were his lost of cachet—first hinted at by none other than LVMH’s CEO Bernard Arnault last year when he he told investors that he was “more concerned about Marc Jacobs than the US president”—that The New York Times ran an article entitled “How Marc Jacobs Fell Out of Fashion”, noting that “the label is turning out clothes and accessories that lack a compelling point of view”. Mr Jacobs point of view has always been through the lens of something focused on the past, as well as his tenure in a Paris fashion house.
So march he does to his own beat of a certain vintage. At the risk of repeating ourselves, Mr Jacobs revisited the early years of Yves Saint Laurent and the latter of Comme des Garçons. The sharp-eyed may see Chanel—Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel from the late ’80s—tossed in for good measure. And those oversized rosettes? Maybe Emmanual Ungaro? For sure, YSL’s jackets were there and CDG’s body-obscuring poufs too. Even if one day these two brands become irrelevant, there will always be Mr Jacobs reminding us of their greatness, of their impact on him, and the theatrics he has bought to an otherwise staid New York Fashion Week.
This is amusing (nerve-wracking sometimes), and no one revives as entertainingly and consistently as Mr Jacobs. However, despite all that he has put into the splendorous outfits—and there is considerable effort, we should say—Mr Jacobs has not been able to generate what in America is known as the X factor. These clothes can create visual impact, but they don’t get us, as Diana Vreeland said of Cristobal Balenciaga, “madly infatuated”.
Photos: Marc Jacobs