Having repositioned Louis Vuitton with his innovative designs and accessory logos, Jacobs has focussed on his own Marc Jacobs brand in both its main and diffusion ranges since his departure from the LVMH brand, overseeing successful fragrance, cosmetics, books and stationery launches in the ten years since its founding.
Holding a slew of titles to his name in recognition of his influential work, Jacobs’ numerous industry accolades include a series of CFDA awards, a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York City’s Garment District, as well as commendation as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to fashion in Paris. In 2013, Jacobs and business partner Robert Duffy were also jointly nominated to receive Fashion Group International’s Superstar Award, marking the first time the award has been presented to two people within the industry.
Jacobs’s early experience in fashion was formed in 1978 whilst working as a store assistant at New York clothing boutique Charivari, where the 15 year-old struck up a friendship with Perry Ellis.
In 1981, following his graduation from the High School of Art and Design, Jacobs enrolled in Parsons the New School for Design, undertaking a degree in womenswear design. Jacobs’s senior year project consisted of three oversized sweaters hand-knit by his grandmother. He was awarded the young designer the school’s Chester Weinberg and Perry Ellis Gold Thimble award, as well as Design Student of the Year.
The sweaters also impressed Reuben Thomas executive Robert Duffy at a graduate dinner held shortly afterwards, with Duffy scouting the recent graduate to design for the distribution company’s sportswear label Sketchbook. Charivari owner Barbara Weiser also contracted Jacobs to produce a range of his sweaters for her store and in late 1984, the design was photographed by eminent New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.
In 1986, following the closure of Reuben Thomas, Jacobs and Duffy formed Marc Jacobs Inc. and , following financing secured from Japanese retailer Onward Kashiyama, launched their first design venture under the Marc Jacobs label, earning Jacobs the industry’s interest and a CFDA/Perry Ellis award for New Fashion Talent.
In 1989, Jacobs joined Perry Ellis to oversee the women’s wear department. Famously fired by management in 1993, following an unsuccessful grunge collection, Jacobs and Duffy launched the Marc Jacobs International company shortly after, creating a few independent collections prior to selling 96 percent of the shareholding to LVMH in 1997 coinciding with Mr Jacobs' appointment as Louis Vuitton's artistic director.
At the S/S 2014 Louis Vuitton show it was announced Jacobs would leave the house, to focus on his own line, in preparation for a proposed IPO. The American designer helped to transform from a staid luggage label into one of the most valuable fashion brands in the world, and the jewel in LVMH’s crown.
Critical to Jacobs’ creative strategy were the designer’s hugely successful collaborations with contemporary artists, including Stephen Sprouse (2001), Takashi Murakami (2005), Richard Prince (2007) and Yayoi Kusama (2012), which played with Louis Vuitton’s key brand signifiers: the “LV” logo and famous monogram. The Murakami collaboration alone generated $300 million in sales.
A fitting finale to his 16 year tenure at Vuitton, Jacobs' final collection saw models dressed in funereal black catwalk through iconic set pieces used during his time at the house, including a fountain, elevators, escalators and a carousel.