Brid­get Fo­ley’s Di­ary

Come as you were. Marc Ja­cobs re­vis­its the show that shocked fash­ion, 25 years later.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page -

Marc Ja­cobs re­vis­its his grunge col­lec­tion, 25 years

af­ter it rocked fash­ion.

“I felt like it was com­ing at me. Of course I loved the mu­sic, but what I was re­ally in­ter­ested in was the style.”

— Marc Ja­cobs on grunge, June 2018

Get ready for Grunge Re­dux.

Twenty-five years ago, Marc Ja­cobs rocked fash­ion with his grunge col­lec­tion for Perry El­lis. It shocked, it awed, it out­raged. It also charmed, in­spired and, with clothes and an un­der­ly­ing ap­proach that were the an­tithe­sis of fash­ion­in­tel­lec­tual ( Ja­cobs prefers the virtues of in­stinct and whim) it got peo­ple think­ing. A quar­ter- cen­tury later, we still are. What is fash­ion? Where does it start? How does it re­flect and in­form the cul­ture? Why the en­dur­ing ap­peal of “off­beat” and “un­done?”

This month, we can ru­mi­nate on those ques­tions while ex­am­in­ing — and shop­ping for — some ma­jor orig­i­nal­source ma­te­rial. Sort of. As re­ported, for his brand’s Novem­ber de­liv­ery (he re­fuses to call it “re­sort”), Ja­cobs has re- cre­ated line-for-line copies of 26 looks from that sem­i­nal grunge col­lec­tion. It will be avail­able on­line on Nov. 15, and in phys­i­cal stores be­gin­ning on the Nov. 19, with the open­ing of a ma­jor pop-up con­cept on Madi­son Av­enue in the old DKNY space. Any­one who loves or is re­motely cu­ri­ous about fash­ion should feel pal­pi­ta­tions. Ja­cobs’ grunge show was one the most im­por­tant — and most in­fa­mous — col­lec­tions of these past 25 years. (That I don’t have an orig­i­nal piece is a ma­jor re­gret of my work­ing/ ac­quis­i­tive life in fash­ion. That and the wrong­ful de-wrin­kling of some Margielas.) On Madi­son, the en­tire col­lec­tion will be in­stalled gallery-style, pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity for in­sid­ers, ca­sual fans, the merely cu­ri­ous and, most im­por­tantly, le­gions of fash­ion stu­dents to take in a piece of fash­ion his­tory and per­haps re­think or pon­der for the first time what the fuss was all about.

Given a va­ri­ety of the col­lec­tion’s con­cepts that have en­dured, one can even ar­gue for Ja­cobs’ grunge as the sin­gle most in­flu­en­tial col­lec­tion of this past quar­ter- cen­tury — not a state­ment of an­niver­sary hy­per­bole. Yes, other de­sign­ers have been knocked off more fre­quently, with Mi­uc­cia Prada, Hel­mut Lang and Martin Margiela at the top of the list. Ditto Karl Lager­feld (the tweed jack­ets and quilted bags may have been Coco’s in­ven­tions but their end­less co- opt­ing re­sults from Karl fas­ci­na­tion). John Gal­liano changed the way women dress for evening, Tom Ford turned the con­cept of com­mer­cial de­signer from cheesy to cool, and Rei Kawakubo — the de­signer’s de­signer. Of more re­cent ar­rivals, Phoebe Philo, Pier­paolo Pic­ci­oli, Demna Gvasalia, and Alessan­dro Michele have each steered the in­flu­ence train in a strong di­rec­tion. Yet while all of those de­sign­ers have pro­duced mem­o­rable, and some­times iconic, col­lec­tions, their on­go­ing in­flu­ence more often de­rived from a series of shows.

Grunge was a sin­gle, sem­i­nal col­lec­tion that con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate, its more quan­tifi­able ground­break­ing as­pects are still res­o­nant. To­day, grunge and its cre­ator seem un­can­nily pre­scient. With its mu­sic-world in­spi­ra­tion, the col­lec­tion cod­i­fied the fash­io­nen­ter­tain­ment fu­sion. Along the way, Ja­cobs or­ches­trated his first art-world col­lab­o­ra­tion, with il­lus­tra­tor Robert Crumb, as well as those for shoes, with Birken­stock, and what may have been fash­ion’s first de­signer- sneaker col­lab­o­ra­tion, with Con­verse. (“I don’t know that the peo­ple at Perry El­lis were thrilled. They had a shoe line,” he quipped.)

Yet Ja­cobs is loath to take credit for “firsts,” quickly cor­rect­ing the no­tion that he forged the modern idea of de­sign­ers work­ing with artists: “No,

I think Schi­a­par­elli did that.” (Point taken.) Over­all, he down­played the idea of de­lib­er­ately formed com­mer­cial part­ner­ships, while in­vok­ing a word cen­tral to to­day’s fash­ion. “More than the col­lab­o­ra­tion thing, I felt like things had to have authen­tic­ity,” Ja­cobs said. “It wouldn’t have done for me to do a [Crumb-like] draw­ing. They needed to be a real thing. I didn’t want to put a mar­c­a­site buckle on a two-strap san­dal. It had to be on a Birken­stock…It was im­por­tant that there was this in­tegrity. I didn’t want the girls in de­signer shoes. I wanted them in au­then­tic Con­verse and au­then­tic Birken­stock. I wanted them to be the real deal.”

The real deal — not to be con­fused with mere lin­ear in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Along with grunge, Ja­cobs was moved by the gritty pho­tog­ra­phy of Juer­gen Teller, with whom he’s worked in the past and who shot the Grunge Re­dux cam­paign, as well as David Sims and the late Corinne Day. And his first trip to San Fran­cisco in­clud­ing, of course, Haight-Ash­bury, when he saw the city “the way I wanted it to be more than it re­ally was. It was amaz­ing, but like, [I saw] the ghosts of all of these other times. And I just thought that I love that whole mag­pie, thrift-shop thing.”

Ja­cobs took note as well of in­ter­est­ing dressers among his friends, par­tic­u­larly off-duty mod­els, even the glam­our girls who, when left to their own in­stincts, could sur­prise. “You saw He­lena [Chris­tensen] wear­ing flat san­dals with some granny shawl over a vin­tage Thir­ties night­gown. And it was like this is what He­lena looks like.”

Ja­cobs dis­tilled it all, re- cre­at­ing plaid flan­nels as silks, mix­ing them with army fa­tigues, lace, del­i­cate cro­cheted knits and knit­ted caps, the sundry pieces put to­gether in seem­ingly ran­dom com­bi­na­tions on girls with bare faces and messy hair. It was a high-low, pretty ►

take on youth­ful angst, and it was, most im­por­tantly, about rev­el­ing in one’s own im­per­fec­tion. How 21st cen­tury is that?

For those who buy into the emo­tional power of fash­ion, it’s easy to ro­mance some­thing you love, es­pe­cially when you first ex­pe­ri­enced it while young, and 25 years hence, you’re not so young any­more. Ja­cobs has often said that grunge re­mains his fa­vorite col­lec­tion, and its in­flu­ence rip­ples through the years in his work. Yet this Re­dux is no an­niver­sary reverie. Rather, he views it as an es­sen­tial marker in a ca­reer that has ex­pe­ri­enced count­less vi­cis­si­tudes.

Like other jour­nal­ists, I saw the then­em­bar­goed col­lec­tion last June at the com­pany’s Spring Street head­quar­ters. I’d seen it all be­fore, the first time around. Now the in­stal­la­tion of 26 man­nequins felt friendly in its in­stant fa­mil­iar­ity, the un­done mood that once played as dis­so­nant now a re­al­ity of life to­day, in the streets and on many run­ways. As styled, the clothes looked of their orig­i­nal time, but right for now. When I asked Ja­cobs why it still resonates, I ex­pected philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings. In­stead, he said, “Maybe we’ll get to that part in the con­ver­sa­tion. We needed to do some­thing, right?”

With that rhetor­i­cal query, Ja­cobs re­ferred to the state of the busi­ness, which is chal­lenged. To­gether with chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Eric Marechalle, who suc­ceeded Se­bas­tian Suhl last year, Ja­cobs is in the process of re­order­ing some el­e­ments of the busi­ness to cap­i­tal­ize on the cre­ative and philo­soph­i­cal essence on which the com­pany was built and which he would like to re­cap­ture.

“In the big pic­ture, a re­dux of grunge evokes go­ing for­ward while be­ing a lit­tle bit more in­stinc­tive and a lit­tle bit more lib­eral and not as rigid with the way we do things,” Ja­cobs said. “There needs to be a de­liv­ery for Novem­ber, and we all got ex­cited about the idea of do­ing 25, 26 looks from the grunge col­lec­tion. This is not what we’re go­ing to do ev­ery month or ev­ery sea­son. There are a lot of things to take on.

“In terms of think­ing about how Robert [Duffy] and I op­er­ated, we were al­ways kind of in­stinc­tive,” he con­tin­ued. “Some ideas worked and some ideas didn’t, some of them worked on a cer­tain level and not an­other. I feel like there are so many is­sues in fash­ion and in the worlds of mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, etc. I wanted to look at the sit­u­a­tion we were in here with the re­al­ity of what has hap­pened with the run­way col­lec­tion and the con­fu­sion and try­ing to com­bine two col­lec­tions.”

Be­fore our con­ver­sa­tion ended, Ja­cobs ad­dressed bal­anc­ing run­way won­der with “things to sell,” re­tail’s chang­ing re­al­i­ties, cus­tomer con­fu­sion, the mean­ing­less of sea­sonal han­dles for “re­sort and pre-fall” and his in­nate aver­sion to other trade lingo. (“I don’t want to fall into the pop­u­lar ver­nac­u­lar of ‘drop’ or any of those things, but you know what I mean.”)

But now is a mo­ment for grunge, and how it fits into Ja­cobs’ de­ter­mi­na­tion to “do some­thing.” He as­sem­bled “peo­ple re­main­ing in this com­pany who I feel un­der­stand what we’re about, who have been here for a long time. We sat around a ta­ble and we started talk­ing about what we would like for the com­pany, how im­por­tant we felt cer­tain things were and where they’d got­ten bro­ken or dam­aged, what we feel like we’ve al­ways stood for, what was the essence of what that meant.”

One tenet: price di­ver­sity. When the topic came up, I pulled out some notes and read a com­ment Ja­cobs made around the time he was ex­it­ing Perry El­lis: “Go­ing for­ward, I would like to do a line that builds on what I did last sea­son, not grunge specif­i­cally, but the idea of $30 sneak­ers with a $300 dress, a $12 T- shirt un­der a $3,000 suit. My the­ory is it’s all fash­ion.”

“It still is [my the­ory]”, Ja­cob of­fered. “But I do feel like there was a mo­ment, with Robert in the West Vil­lage…” The two had long em­braced broad-range pric­ing, from “the spe­cial items, like key rings and lit­tle trin­kets that were very, very in­ex­pen­sive, to Marc by Marc, which was much more demo­cratic in price point.” Those were the heady days of the Marc Ja­cobs mul­ti­ple-door re­tail as­cen­dancy on Bleecker Street in New York’s West Vil­lage. Now, only Book­marc re­mains. “There is no point in blam­ing or point­ing fin­gers, but it’s just got­ten away from us, or away, from me, and so I wanted to speak to the peo­ple here who I feel have a knowl­edge of this com­pany when it was work­ing in the way that I like to see it work, and we started talk­ing.”

The chal­lenge: “How do we hold onto the past that we be­lieve in and how do we move for­ward?”

A Novem­ber-de­liv­ery Grunge Re­dux felt like the per­fect start — and a la­bor­in­ten­sive one. Be­fore clothes could be made, they had to be sourced. That the orig­i­nal de­signs don’t be­long to Marc Ja­cobs Intl. seemed of lit­tle con­cern from the start. When news of the Re­dux broke, “We got a nice email from the peo­ple at Perry El­lis say­ing con­grat­u­la­tions and all of that,” Ja­cobs said. One as­sumes no ar­chives were kept. Cer­tainly, Ja­cobs didn’t have any of the pieces. Clothes were called in from in­dus­try friends Elissa San­tisi and Gabe Dop­pelt, tracked down on eBay, ex­am­ined at the Met and some, re- cre­ated from pic­tures. They’re all ap­par­ent ringers, though Ja­cobs wouldn’t have used the orig­i­nal pat­terns even if he’d had ac­cess. “The body changes,” he said. For fab­rics, his staff went back to the orig­i­nal houses. As for been there/ done that, Danuta Denuree, now head of the atelier who first worked with Ja­cobs at Perry El­lis, had some orig­i­nal fab­ric swatches from which to work.

Ral­ly­ing the troops had prac­ti­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal as­pects. Ev­ery­one fa­mil­iar with the orig­i­nal grunge col­lec­tion was im­me­di­ately pas­sion­ate. For the less aware, par­tic­u­larly the sales staff, Ja­cobs staged a “sort of a pep rally” for which he and his right-hand guy, Ni­co­las New­bold, wrote a man­i­festo of sorts that in­cluded his thoughts and reprinted in full Cathy Ho­ryn’s 2015 “Chang­ing My Mind About Marc Ja­cobs Grunge Col­lec­tion,” for The Cut. This ses­sion came at Marechalle’s re­quest, who, ac­cord­ing to Ja­cobs, stressed, “how much it would mean to the peo­ple who weren’t there and who don’t know and don’t have the ro­man­tic at­tach­ment to hear from you why it was im­por­tant to you, what it meant to you, what that pe­riod was about, what that time was about.”

Ja­cobs was ini­tially wary, hav­ing long main­tained that no mat­ter the back­story, peo­ple re­spond to clothes or they don’t. Ul­ti­mately, he ac­qui­esced, in ac­knowl­edg­ment of the im­port of the mo­ment. “I am try­ing to bring an en­ergy back to the com­pany and to the peo­ple who work here,” he said. “Not to the ones who’ve al­ways been here and love be­ing here and love what this com­pany has al­ways rep­re­sented, but to peo­ple who haven’t been, to say to them, ‘ This is who we are, this is how we got here, this is why we do what we do and this is why I be­lieve in it.’”

The staff buy-in felt unan­i­mous. “My heart was in some­thing,” Ja­cobs said. “It shows when your heart’s in it, you can see it, you can feel it…[Grunge Re­dux] will end up in a store, on a rack. It will end up there with the love and the en­ergy and the kind of ex­cite­ment and the en­thu­si­asm that [went into] it. [We did it] not for just the few of us who know it, but for those that don’t.” ■

The Grunge cam­paign shot by Juer­gen Teller.

Marc Ja­cobs with mod­els back­stage be­fore his spring 1993grunge col­lec­tion for Perry El­lis.

Christy Turling­ton Burns on the run­way.

Tyra Banks gets peace­ful be­fore Marc Ja­cobs’ spring 1993 grunge col­lec­tion for Perry El­lis.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.