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Putting the Marc in Marc Jacobs

Even workwear can be couture-ified in the hands of Marc Jacobs, whose off-calendar shows remain primetime draws for the New York fashion industry.
Models walk the runway during the Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 2023 show at the Park Avenue Armory.
Models walk the runway during the Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 2023 show at the Park Avenue Armory. (Getty Images)
By
  • Steff Yotka

NEW YORK — If there’s one surefire truth about today’s fashion world, with its “always on” communications, it’s that fashion week never, really, truly ends. One week after the couture shows in Paris; days after ready-to-wear shows from Mugler (Paris), Alaïa (Antwerp), and Marni (Tokyo); during Copenhagen Fashion Week; a day before Rhude’s show in Los Angeles; and about a week ahead of New York Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs took to the catwalk in New York to present his Autumn/Winter 2023 collection.

For the 100 guests who made it inside the blackened Park Avenue Armory — Lourdes Leon was turned away for being late — Jacobs lit up a single strip of floor. Violinist Jennifer Koh began performing Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach: Knee Play 2″ promptly at 6:00 p.m. and by 6:12 p.m., against the clomp-clomp of platform heels clanking on the wooden floor, it was all over.

In the 12 minutes between, 45 models in 45 pairs of platform Kiki boots showed off Jacobs’ latest collection. Since a restructuring that saw the brand scale back its runway collections, while developing a mid-priced mainline and adding youth-driven Heaven by Marc Jacobs, the designer has gotten more gestural with his outings, worrying less about staging the spectacular shows stuffed with supermodels and A-list guests for which he was once known, and focusing more on what matters most to him these days: craft and soulfulness.

His show notes included a quote from the late Vivienne Westwood — “Fashion is life enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people” — and from the first look of a grey cotton shirt and midi-skirt hiked up, studded with crystals and bustled, it was obvious Jacobs was going for something humble but sumptuous. His own recent love of workwear and utility details, evidenced by many recent selfies in an oversize Balenciaga cargo coat, inspired arpeggiated passages of de- and re-constructed workwear: fatigue green aviator jackets turned upside down, quilted coats in denim and fuchsia, long cargo skirts with hiked up vents, and simple gray knits made heavenly with couture-inspired darting at front. Models walked menacingly with their arms crossed, big blocky shoes, hair spiked straight or sunbleached in dove grey and dust blue.

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Scrunched up shift dresses in what looked like faux leather were Jacobs’ most interesting provocation, a way to both show the slender lines of his models’ bodies and to build a new physique from layers of pinned and bustled fabric. On the other end of the spectrum was a rain jacket in brown plaid, so simple a coat rendered so fabulously freakish thanks to Jacobs’ severe silhouette and the spooky setting.

Jacobs does what few other American designers do these days: go beyond mere clothes. Sales aren’t really the point with these outings. Instead, the designer approaches his now annual shows as an opportunity to incite a vibe shift in fashion and within his own business, where his collections inform the more accessible main line.

After the show, where Jacobs refuses typical press interviews, Anna Sui and Sofia Coppola waited to greet the designer with art director Ava Nirui, who spearheads the fast-growing Heaven by Marc Jacobs line. The Heaven-ification of the Marc Jacobs business is hard to ignore. Earlier in the day, Heaven by Marc Jacobs debuted its collaboration with London-based Kiko Kostadinov with a campaign starring British musician Beabadoobee and Internet It-Girl Gabbriette. A month earlier, it ran another campaign starring Kate Moss in Kiki boots. Outside the show, a fan stood bartering with security guards outside the police barricade in graffiti print Kikis boots. Parent company LVMH, at its 2022 results presentation last week, name-checked Marc Jacobs as having delivered an “exceptional” performance and the brand is set to open new stores, banking on the viral appeal of its Heaven accessories and top-selling Snapshot and Tote bags.

But do customers want more Marc? Fashion certainly does. Industry guests lingered long inside the venue, hoping to get a little something from the designer, while outside on the street departing show-goers were already putting looks on their wish lists despite the fact that the collection will go only into limited production.

Disclosure: Steff Yotka is head of digital content at e-tailer Ssense, which sells Marc Jacobs. LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.

Further Reading

Inside the Shakeup at Marc Jacobs

Designer Marc Jacobs, CEO Eric Marechalle and LVMH Fashion Group boss Sidney Toledano speak exclusively to BoF about what it took to get the brand back on track.

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