WHAT’S NEXT FOR MARC JACOBS?
After 16 years at iconic French label Louis Vuitton, the designer is turning his attention homeward.
It’s a big moment for Marc Jacobs, but it’s important to remember, when evaluating, anticipating, and dreaming of his next steps, that this is a man who has never, ever been stagnant. He’s a master of change, the ultimate transformer. The announcement in October during Paris Fashion Week that he’d be resigning his post as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton after 16 earth-rocking, game-changing years is the next piece in a continuum of bravery, surprise, and creativity of nearly unfathomable depth.
Let’s start with the Stephen Sprouse bags: We are so familiar with them now, but when they debuted in 2000, to mess with something as iconic as the LV monogram was unimaginable. Yet there they were, coming down the runway, and the luxury goods market was forever changed—the army green letters on the brown leather a form of camouflage graffiti that was instantly covetable, beautiful, and exciting. Jacobs went on to merge art and fashion in ways previously unthinkable (collaborations with artists like Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Yayoi Kusama) to elevate the idea of the must-have It thing while simultaneously developing a ready-to-wear line with an identity and a texture of its own, pretty much from scratch.
And then, of course, there was the drastic transformation of self that occurred over these same years. When Jacobs began working at Vuitton, he was stylish but pudgy, with stringy hair, thick glasses, and shapeless sweaters. He also had a significant problem with drugs and alcohol, but with the support of his business partners and friends, he triumphed over these demons while scarcely missing a creative beat. The only vices that remain are caffeine and cigarettes: Jacobs is otherwise a remarkable physical specimen—the gym incarnate—all muscle and chisel and trim little suits and calf-baring kilts and jazzy Cuban heels and, yes, one very famous lace dress by Comme des Garçons.
I, for one, always wondered whether such an extreme change in lifestyle and self-presentation would alter his work. He had often said that he found inspiration in his own discomfort, a beauty in awkwardness. But he only grew more interesting, drawing from an extraordinary pastiche of ideas and emotions to create collection upon collection that forever changed the conversation and the game.
A major change in fashion since 1997 has been the rise of the super-designer, the international, globe-trotting collection machine who spits out look upon look, fragrance after lipstick after small leather good. The super-designer has the ability to move between continents and seasons almost in defiance of physics. We have seen the tragic results of such pressures, the huge potential for burnout, and it was easy to worry about Jacobs in such a context. But if the work exhausted him, which surely it must have, once again it didn’t dampen his output.
So now he has left Vuitton, and presumably he will leave Paris to come home to New York, the city of his youth and of so much of his identity. The city that gave him the Mudd Club and the pretty girls of SoHo in their expensive cashmere that was “a little fucked-up”.
For years Jacobs lived in a beautiful apartment on the Champ de Mars, and when he was in New York he stayed at the Mercer Hotel. But now, following a year-long exile from his West Village town house due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, he is finally back home, with a roof deck where he relaxes with friends and watches the sun set over the harbour. He’s stepping back from design responsibilities at Marc by Marc Jacobs—the better to focus on designing his main line and his IPO—and he’s single right now, having recently (amicably!) split with a boyfriend. He’s open to all possibilities everywhere.
It’s not the change that’s new for him, it’s the time. For the first time in years, he’ll have some. It boggles the mind to think what he might do with it.
Edie Campbell at Marc Jacobs’s final show for Louis Vuitton