Last night I witnessed the intricate ballet of savvy PR and event-planning that has helped build Marc Jacobs into one of the only truly successful, global luxury brands that has been launched in the past 20 years.
It was evidence of the basic human psychological desire to be part of the cool crowd. You know those nightclubs that intentionally keep people waiting outside to give off the impression of being the hot spot of the moment? This was not all that different, except Marc Jacobs has been doing this for almost 20 years, and he has it down to a fine art. Plus, this is not just hype. He has a reputation for delivering collections that will inspire designers and consumers the world over as they adopt his take on of-the-moment coolness. Nobody wants to miss it. It is the hottest ticket in town
Here's how the night unfolded.
9:00pm - Crowds of guests and press have formed outside the Armory, but nobody is getting in. People are pretty calm, given the show was supposed to start at this time, except for a French woman who insists she must urgently get in now. She is promptly rebuffed.
9:10pm - The rapidly growing crowd is told by burly security guards to come back at 10:00 when the doors would open. The show would not start before 11:00, they said. KCD publicists assure important buyers and press that they will not lose their seats and that they should go grab a drink. Almost nobody leaves. An old school ice-cream stand outside (with a Kate Spade logo?) serves up helpings to keep the crowd cool. Dodgy freelance papparazi types scour the crowd and big black SUVs like ambulance chasers, desperately looking for recognisable faces. The anticipation builds.
9:19- The doors open 41 minutes earlier than expected. Miraculously. All those people who didn't leave were right to have stayed. A flood of people pushes inside. A wall of paparazzi await the entrance of major celebrities. Nearby, journalists from fashion channels from around the world are held back by steel barriers, sticking their microphones out to stop the bold and the beautiful to ask them what they think of Marc. I stop to answer questions from Fashion Television. Obviously, everyone thinks Marc is just fabulous. Especially since they are now officially part of the cool crowd. I race to find my colleagues somewhere in the melee.
10:00 - The first of the major celebrities begin to arrive, in what appears to be a carefully choreographed pecking-order. One by one they come, welcomed by an explosion of flash bulbs and then escorted into the Armory by their bodyguards and PRs. Carmen Electra. Courtney Love. Sheryl Crowe. Mischa Barton. Victoria Beckham. Too many to list. They are followed closely by hangers-on and a stream of cameras and young women trying to sell charity t-shirts.
10:05 Everyone else is waiting, watching and gawking at the spectacle unfolding in front of them. Nobody seems bored or the slightest bit bothered by the wait. Part of the entertainment is what happens beforehand.
10:25 - I am perched (precariously) near a friend in the front row, who explains that since Robert Duffy has started making the rounds to say hello to the high profile guests, the show will begin shortly. I look a couple of people down the row and see Heath Ledger sitting next to Michael Stipe from REM.
11:00 . The lights dim and to everyone's surprise, Marc Jacobs runs out and gives his end of show bow at the beginning of the show. Backwards. Upside down. Inside out. I have seen this concept somewhere else, but can't quite remember where. Was it India Fashion Week, of all places?
11:01 Even Anna Wintour and the Vogue crowd look amused.
11:02 The models begin to come out, with the most intricate couture-like looks first. Again, this is against the norm. The clothes look interesting. Lots of colour. I am trying to decipher the message. There is always a message with Marc. There are a lot of layers of different clothes being shown in various states of dress and undress. Video screens display the models coming out in their underwear.
11:07 I begin to note that the strength of the show is in accessories, which are on-trend and will be instantly recognisable to Marc Jacobs fans. This is consistent with seasons past. Even if not everyone will "get" the clothes, they will still understand the accessories.
11:19 Look 2 comes out. Only 1 look to go. I see Anna Wintour put her jacket on.
11:20. Show's over. People race out to beat the crowds while a long queue of journalists wait for an interview with the designer. Once again, it is all choreographed perfectly and Marc only comes out once the journalists have been lined up according to priority. Everyone else races off to the afterparty
12:30 Marc finally shows up to his own party, after having done 1 hour of interviews, only to be greeted by more flashbulbs and more press. Everyone wants a piece of him.
12:40 Marc tries to watch his show video, but people keep interrupting him. I watch as his bodyguard and his PR politely (but firmly) tell people who come up to Marc for too long to move along.
12:45 He is unfailingly polite to people, even to the ones he doesn't seem to know. He looks tired. This is not an easy life.