*ARTICLE* Marc Jacobs is a true originator (Telegraph UK)

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    (source: Telegraph.co.uk)
    Jacobs makes his Marc in London

    Marc Jacobs is a true originator, writes Clare Coulson

    Have you been lusting after the quilted leather, chain-handled handbags with oversized clasps that are flooding the high street this spring? Have you swooned over the pretty silk tunic dresses on racks in high street stores or invested in another pair of cute, pointy flats to wear to work?

    Very few women can claim to have a wardrobe untouched by Marc Jacobs - the originator of all of the above. He is currently the most influential man in fashion and has been the catalyst for an incredible tally of trends during his career from early Nineties grunge and combat trousers to pretty prom dresses and decorative bows.

    This week, Jacobs comes to London where he will present his younger, "Marc" collection at Claridges - the first time he has shown outside New York. It's a huge boost to the city's Fashion Week which is all too often viewed as a scruffier, less important sibling to New York, Milan and Paris.

    On the same day, Jacobs will open his first London store in Mayfair before hosting what promises to be Fashion Week's glitziest party. He has taken over the entire ground floor of the notoriously discreet Connaught Hotel, booked three DJs and invited 800 guests - from Sofia Coppola to Salma Hayek to Winona Ryder and Anna Wintour (who is flying in especially).

    So how has a geeky-looking 43-year-old New Yorker become fashion's most bankable and followed star? Jacobs has an awe-inspiring knack for knowing what women will want to wear long before we know ourselves. He has the same kind of prescience about fashion as other great designers, such as Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.

    After a degree at New York's prestigious Parson's School of Design, he started his own label in 1984 with Robert Duffy who is still vice-chairman of the company. In 1989 Jacobs became head of womenswear at Perry Ellis, and his big break - if you can call it that - came in 1992 when he presented his now legendary grunge collection.

    His street-inspired distressed dowdiness was a look too far for a fashion industry immersed in sleek Nineties styling and he was duly sacked.

    Yet in the same year he was also crowned Designer of the Year at the annual CFDA awards, New York's fashion "Oscars", and the "grunge" look was championed by editors at Vogue and Mademoiselle. That look continues its ripple effect to this day - think Kiera Knightley in her sloppy beanie hat and hefty biker boots.

    One of the questions fashion experts are most frequently asked is: "How do trends happen? How is that so many designers seem to come up with the same look at the same time?" The reality is that a handful of designers set the fashion agenda and lead the way for everyone else, and Jacobs is at the forefront of this design elite.

    It's the reason why editors, buyers and fashion-conscious celebrities will routinely sit and wait for 90 minutes to see the designer's collection each season. No one knows more about what is coming next than Jacobs - and in fashion that's the holy grail.

    Jacobs's unpredictable streak is a key to his success; his about-turns are legendary and always influential - last week, in New York, he went against every trend of the moment with his collection for next autumn. His elegantly suited chic models looked grown-up and refined and a world away from the girly smocks and tricky volume that dominate fashion this spring. It was a radical shift but by August every high street store will be mimicking it in one way or another.

    What Jacobs does is not necessarily new - his summer collection's light and airy layers owe a debt to the 1920s and 1940s, while next autumn's colourful retro suiting could have been lifted straight from French Vogue circa 1974. What is new is the Jacobs interpretation - putting clothes and accessories into an entirely novel context that becomes of-the-moment.

    His bags, for example, may largely draw upon the classic Chanel quilted leather and chain, but the look is given a contemporary twist with oversized clasps and attention-grabbing hardware, such as padlocks and studs.

    That is why his shows are scrutinised more than any other in the fashion calender and why his signature looks are echoed in record time by high street stores. Topshop has virtually built its revival on a very clever interpretation of Jacobs's design footprint - its tunic dresses, bib-front T-shirts and blouses, dolly shoes and colourful twill jackets and coats have all smacked of Jacobs quirkiness.

    If you traipsed around Primark looking for its cotton twill military jackets a few summers ago you were also buying into one of the designer's most widely imitated looks.

    For the moment Jacobs's appeal shows no sign of waning and Friday night's bash will be ample illustration of his popularity. Some of the uninvited have already checked into the Connaught so that they can infiltrate the party on the night.

    Others will have to make do with a bystander position on the pavements outside, but you can guarantee they will all be wearing some trace of the Jacobs legacy.

    Top five Jacobs hits
    • The military jacket
    • The Chain Handled Bag
    • The Smock Dress
    • The bib front blouse
    • The big buttoned coat
    Marc Jacobs autumn/winter 2007/8
  2. :heart: Merci, bag.lover! ;)
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    (source: Guardian Unlimited)
    Outside in

    He's one of the world's most influential designers, but Marc Jacobs is not your typical fashionista. His first major collection defined the look of the decade but got him the sack, he openly admits to being insecure, and he once turned up to a Venetian costume party... dressed as a pigeon. Hadley Freeman meets the king of awkward cool.

    Saturday February 17, 2007
    The Guardian

    Designer Marc Jacobs talks to a model backstage at a Fall 2005 show.
    Photograph: Jennifer Taylor/Getty Images

    When it was announced last year that Marc Jacobs, one of the most popular and certainly one of the most influential designers in the world, was going to show his lower-priced line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, in London instead of New York this month, reactions were mixed. On the one hand, there was the usual overexcitement at the prospect of a big-name designer gracing beleaguered London with his presence, as happened last season when Giorgio Armani showed his cheaper line, Emporio Armani. On the other, there was a degree of cynicism. It's hard not to suspect that designers see this as a clever way of being a big fish in a little pond, guaranteeing big publicity for their label - notably, always their cheaper, smaller and therefore vaguely less important label.

    It's a point that Jacobs himself concedes when we meet in his airy office in downtown New York. "Although the Marc by Marc... show does get a good audience [in New York], when it comes down to it, it's only a tiny bit of coverage in the press because it's always on the heels of the [Marc Jacobs] collection," he says.

    In truth, though, this move represents a professional and personal triumph for Jacobs. Professional, because this one-off London appearance is marking the opening of his first shop in the city, an opening that suggests, at long last, an accord with LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate that owns a 96% stake in his holding company, Marc Jacobs International. Only two years ago, Jacobs and his business partner, Robert Duffy, complained that the LVMH behemoth was not helping their label sufficiently. Jacobs told the Wall Street Journal, "We were being forced to carry this little tin cup. It was like, 'Hey guys, hello? How about us?'... I think Gucci treated Tom Ford better than LVMH has treated me."

    "Well, that's all changed," Jacobs says, before I've even finished reading his quotes back to him. "Mr [Bernard] Arnault [CEO of LVMH] has been so great to us - I mean, he's always been great, I should say. There were things we were frustrated by and about, but if I look at the situation clearly, he's seen our business grow from what it was then into a success, and Mr Arnault, being a smart businessman, recognises that." Which basically means: now that the Marc Jacobs brand has become so successful, with a multimillion annual turnover, even the suits at LVMH are according it some respect, hence the shop openings in Paris and now in London.

    On a personal level, Jacobs' increasing immersion in Europe - he has lived for several years in Paris, where he works as creative director for Louis Vuitton - has represented a break from his more toxic past in New York, where he struggled for a long time with life-threatening alcoholism and drug addictions. When asked which were his favourites of all the collections he has done since starting out in the early 80s, he says the last three, because, "something has happened to me. I don't know where this energy has come from, maybe I'm just happy, maybe maturity . I don't know ."

    Is it because he has been staying away from the New York party scene? "Oh, yeah!" he replies instantly, as if relieved that the subject has been brought up for him. "Learning not to be so turned on by the empty nightlife - that has just opened up so much for me. Before, I was going to the offi ce and going to clubs and repeating the same experiences over and over. Now," he says, looking up with a shy kind of pride, "I get up and do things during the day, like go to art events like Basel and Frieze, or the ballet, or the theatre, and that has definitely informed the collections. Also, in Paris, things move a little slower, so I don't get so caught up in doing things without thinking." Presumably fi nding a new social circle has helped? "Oh yeah, that definitely helps."

    Jacobs started drinking and taking drugs as a teenager . Seven years ago, Duffy, terrified that Jacobs was about to die, forcibly packed the designer off to get some help. He had been, Jacobs says, about to "lose everything - [my] life, the people who care, the things that matter. And you have to learn to replace all those old activities with something else, so you don't then say, 'I wish I was still doing the other stuff .'" H e has not "had the easiest of sobriety, but I try to stay clean and sober every day". As to why he started drinking and taking drugs in the first place, he answers honestly: "I felt taller, I felt sexier, I felt funnier, I felt less insecure. All those things were magic potions - and then they stopped working. But then, they weren't ever really magic potions. I dunno, maybe I just wanted to fit in."

    This desire for social acceptance is surprising, because Jacobs has always prided himself on being the outsider. With his studiedly geeky appearance - skinny trousers and shirts, dark-rimmed glasses, general avoidance of publicity - he is the physical opposite of what most people expect from a fashion designer, something he mentions repeatedly. "Maybe everybody's insecure, but I fi nd there are a lot of designers who seem so confident with what they say, what they do, their manner of dress, and I'm just not."

    Jacobs came to prominence with his now infamous grunge collection for the Perry Ellis label in 1992. It established the style of the decade - tartan shirts piled on top of one another, long, trailing skirts and boots - but it was so at odds with the sleek and showy look most people expect from fashion that it got him the sack. His clothes today still have that kind of awkward cool. Past inspirations for his collections have included the teenage daughter from The Incredibles and Rachel Feinstein, the cartoonish wife of artist John Curran who has a penchant for enormous sunglasses and pussy-bow blouses. "It's kind of a reaction against the whole red carpet thing," Jacobs says, "[with] everybody in backless dresses doing poses for the camera. I don't want to send people out looking like they're about to be photographed for Us or People [the US equivalents of Grazia and OK!]. It's the things that aren't accepted as conventionally beautiful that I find more attractive."

    Yet this unconventional look has proven to be one of the most influential of the decade, appealing to a generation more interested in looking cool than sexy. And there is a good argument to be made that Jacobs made fashion relevant again to young people, after a decade of it being solely for the shoulder-padded middle-aged. Cropped swing jackets, oversized buttons, exaggerated piping and prom dresses: these looks all originated with Jacobs, and the rejuvenated British high street owes much of its renaissance to him, having applied many of his styles to their own collections, which he says is "extremely flattering".

    His clothes, particularly those for Marc by Marc Jacobs, still betray those late 70s, early 80s influences from the time he was growing up, with their tight T-shirts, vaguely retro prints and pastel trousers. He always wants, he says, "to keep it in that 70s look, which I so love", which is a little surprising because his childhood wasn't particularly happy: his father died when he was seven, his mother, who liked to dress up as the main character in the film Klute, was in and out of hospitals ("She just wasn't well"). Jacobs, an unsporty, shy little boy, was raised by his grandmother.

    After fashion college in 1983, he met Duffy, who continues to look after the commercial side of the Marc Jacobs label. In 1997, Jacobs was hired as creative director of Louis Vuitton, launching its first clothing line and giving the fusty French label a fashion appeal. Since he joined, annual sales have doubled, to over $2.4bn. And so the fashion outsider has become one of its biggest insiders - a contradiction with which Jacobs struggles. His fashion shows are a veritable celebrity and paparazzi scrum, with Demi Moore, Sofia Coppola, Roger Federer, rapper Lil' Kim and Victoria Beckham making up the audience at one show alone.

    But much of Jacobs's lucrative image depends on his aura of the geeky-but-hip outsider, so it's not surprising he is so insistent that he's still the same slacker nerd. He claims he doesn't really have any big ambitions, but that is patently not the case, and even he can't resist mentioning that recent forays into homeware and childrenswear have been "really successful - but, um, they were just whims, you know". He bridles at any suggestion of "cool", by association or any other way - he wrote an angry letter to a journalist at the New York Times who dared to use the word in relation to him.

    Although there's a touch of self-mythologising in the way he hammers on about being a lucky geek, there is also something appealing about his genuine lack of vanity. Aside from generally shying away from photographs, he hosts an annual costume party in New York that has become legendary, not for the glamour but for Jacobs's own costumes: at a recent one, themed red and gold, he was a giant ketchup bottle; at the last one in December, the theme was "Venice" - most guests came as Venetian aristocrats, and Jacobs turned up as a pigeon.

    to be continued...
  4. ^ He is certainly looking happier and healthier than he has for a long time, something he attributes to his sobriety and to his recovery from long-term digestive problems. He clearly loves his life in Paris with his two dogs, Alfred and Daisy (he recently launched a dogwear line, Bark Jacobs), and talks about the joys of picking tiles for the kitchen. He's even started going to the gym and, after several trials and errors, has settled on the perfect exercise outfit, inspired by the look of the 70s-style red tracksuit worn by the nerdy son played by Ben Stiller in The Royal Tenenbaums. "I love the gym, but I still want to look a bit awkward at it. I don't want to look too on top of it, you know? I guess I'm more comfortable with being uncomfortable than I've ever been.

    Guardian Unlimited ; Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
  5. (source: nymag.com)
    Lost and Found

    Marc Jacobs is fashion’s awkward, lonely outsider. Marc Jacobs is fashion’s coolest, most influential designer. The paradoxical triumph of a lost city boy.

    By Amy Larocca

    (Photo: Ryan McGinley)

    Jacobs at work in his Spring Street studio. (Photo: Ryan McGinley)

    Jacobs dressed as a polar bear with Sofia Coppola at his Art Deco Glitter Ball at the Rainbow Room in 2003. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

    Clockwise from top left: Jacobs with models at a 1985 party; Kristen McMemeny and Kate Moss in Jacobs's 1992 "grunge" collection; a Murakami bag; a dark angel from Jacobs's fall 2005 collection; polish at Vuitton, 2005. (Photo: Clockwise from top left: Patrick McMullan; Courtesy of Marc Jacobs; Courtesy of Louis Vuitton; First View (2))

    Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy at the Met's Costume Institute Gala, May 2005. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

    “I love a blouse that’s dumb,” says Marc Jacobs five weeks before his spring 2006 fashion show. Today he’s interested in proms (“all American ceremonies, really”), a funny black bow from a brown vintage dress, Rufus Wainwright, Scout Niblett, and gabardine. “I love to use the word dumb. It’s not knowing, and the word blouse is so out of fashion that I love it—a blouse that’s dumb. And gabardine. That’s what people need to be wearing right now.”


    “I don’t know.”

    He says it again, wrinkling his brow for emphasis.


    When Marc Jacobs is in New York, he starts his mornings early, with toast and jam at the Mercer Hotel (where he stays when he’s here; he lives most of the year in Paris), followed by sessions with a therapist uptown. By four o’clock, he’s wired on caffeine (endless Diet Cokes, emptied into endless plastic cups of ice) and nicotine. On this particular Friday, he’s made a trip to a costume shop, and he’s had a computer lesson on his new Mac from the “kids” in his design studio—first order of business: Google “Rufus Wainwright,” for no particular purpose—and now he’s in his office, sitting beneath a watercolor by Elizabeth Peyton of Sofia Coppola in a green sundress. He’s explaining the appeal of his clothes, which is not unlike the warble of Wainwright, whose album plays in the background: complicated and offbeat. So offbeat, Jacobs insists, that his clothes could never be quite as popular as clothes by Tom Ford or Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein.

    “It’s more psychological,” Jacobs says. “For people that don’t have any interest in the psychology of nuance, who need everything to be in their face, who don’t want to analyze . . . those aren’t the people I romanticize about dressing.”

    It’s a version of fashion that dictates that when Gisele Bündchen is booked for a fashion show, a certain amount of consideration be given to unsexing the sexpot. “We always say, ‘Gisele’s so hot, how do we break her down?’ ” (Dumb, blouse, and gabardine, along with frumpy, dowdy, and ****ed up, are Jacobs’s favorite words.)

    “I don’t have any problem with what people refer to as sexy clothes,” Jacobs says. “I mean, everybody likes sex. The world would be a better place if people just engaged in sex and didn’t worry about it. But what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don’t look it. Curiosity about sex is much more interesting to me than domination. Like, Britney and Paris and Pamela might be someone’s definition of sexy, but they’re not mine. My clothes are not hot. Never. Never.

    “When I first went to Vuitton, I spent so much time comparing myself to Tom Ford, and Gucci was, like, this sexy thing. You needed no explanation.”

    Jacobs’s clothes do, sometimes, require explanation, as well as a healthy sense of irony. With the wrong attitude, the wrong body, and without the right wink, wearing Marc Jacobs clothes could leave a girl looking a bit like Mrs. Doubtfire.

    “More people understand what Tom does. It’s so basic, and that’s not a put-down,” Jacobs says. “I think that’s so incredibly smart and focused, but it’s exactly what I shy away from. There’s a first-degree no-brainer definition of what’s sexy, but the reality of it is, what I find more interesting is someone who is more introverted or mysterious. When we have done sexy, I have thought of clichés like, Oh, she’s the bad Connecticut housewife, or She’s like Mrs. Robinson. I’ve got plenty of sexual female icons, but it’s not overt. It’s not an Über-woman, it’s not a power-hungry vicious man-eater. Youth to me is the most beautiful and sexy thing, really. I’m by no means a pedophile, but there’s a purity to youth. There’s an experimental side, there’s a curiosity. All that is more intriguing to me than knowing, headstrong, oozing sexuality.”

    Jacobs looks younger than 42—maybe it’s just the way he’s dressed, or his trendy plastic eyeglass frames; maybe it’s the way he sits in his chair, casually leaning over and stretching, yawning, and squirming in his seat. The icons he offers are of a nostalgic sort: camp counselors, teachers. He evokes that feeling of being a lost teenager—which, of course, Jacobs was. There’s a certain Spielbergian mythmaking at work with Jacobs’s style, a yearning for the uncomfortable suburban comfort of an American kid in the seventies. “What’s comfortable to me is familiarity,” he says. “Comfort has nothing to do with the size of the garment. I do find something quite comfortable and charming in a too-narrow shoulder, a sleeve that’s too short or too long, a pant that’s too high or too low, hems that are trod on. I like romantic allusions to the past: what the babysitter wore, what the art teacher wore, what I wore during my experimental days in fashion when I was going to the Mudd Club and wanted to be a New Wave kid or a punk kid but was really a poseur. It’s the awkwardness of posing and feeling like I was in, but I never was in. Awkwardness gives me great comfort. I’ve never been cool, but I’ve felt cool. I’ve been in the cool place, but I wasn’t really cool—I was trying to pass for hip or cool. It’s the awkwardness that’s nice.”

    to be continued...
  6. ^ Jacobs is still awkward, but somehow his awkwardness has made him the coolest of cool kids. In the great high school of the adult world, Jacobs is the gifted artist who suddenly makes the football star look like a milquetoast. He’s the guy who knows about bands and writers and artists before everyone else, with exactly the kind of self-destructive streak that drives everyone around him to adopt a protective stance.

    In 1997, LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault hired Jacobs, along with his longtime business partner, Robert Duffy, to be creative director at Louis Vuitton, while also underwriting Jacobs’s own eponymous empire. Jacobs’s early tenure at LVMH was legendarily rocky—a tale of simultaneous success and excess. A patron like Arnault was what he’d always wanted. Still, Jacobs had a colossal fear of failure, as well as a deep ambivalence about finding himself on the inside of a culture he’d always coolly critiqued from a booth at a downtown rock show. “It was almost like he wanted the whole thing to disappear because it was just so much,” says his close friend Anna Sui.

    He lived as hard as was possible for the creative head of a multi-billion-dollar fashion house, with cocaine and alcohol bingeing nightly. Finally, in 1999, Duffy and other friends persuaded Jacobs to go to rehab. He’s been clean now—if you don’t count nicotine and caffeine—for six years.

    Jacobs is responsible for men’s and women’s collections at Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and the lower-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs label. Which means eight full-scale runway productions a year, not to mention the shoes, the bags, the gardenia-scented perfume. There’s a Marc Jacobs home collection, and plans for an even less-expensive collection, too. There are sixteen Marc Jacobs stores open now, with four more set to open soon (Moscow! Dubai! The Palais Royal in Paris!). It’s hard to name another American designer working today who’s as influential as Jacobs. In 1997, prior to Jacobs’s hire, Louis Vuitton’s revenues were $1.2 billion. Last year, they were $3.5 billion—thanks, in part, to Jacobs’s collaboration with Takashi Murakami (pop updates—luscious red cherries, neon logos—on the classic Vuitton pattern), which sold $300 million in handbags. In 2005, Marc Jacobs International has done about $400 million in sales.

    There’s a strict line in Jacobs’s mind separating the Marc Jacobs woman from the woman who is very Vuitton. It’s the difference between being a siren and being shy, between finished and ****ed-up. It’s the girls he relates to versus those who frighten him a bit—those Tom Ford girls. One need look no further than the company’s two ad campaigns to understand this split personality: Marc Jacobs ads are shot by Juergen Teller and are bleached out, grungy, un-retouched. They feature arty girls who cover up: Sofia Coppola, Rachel Feinstein, Winona Ryder. Vuitton ads are slick and brown, as if brushed with a heavy dose of self-tanner and then aggressively shellacked. They star international sex bombs like Jennifer Lopez and Uma Thurman. It’s hard to believe that the creative head who let loose Cindy Sherman with a makeup box for his eponymous line could find himself buffing J.Lo for Louis Vuitton.

    Regarding Bernard Arnault, Jacobs says, “In so many ways, I’ve always felt like this little boy trying to please a father.”

    Duffy lowers his voice and narrows his shoulders when he speaks of the ultimate Marc Jacobs muse. “She’s not a wallflower, exactly,” he says, but close to it. Or she’d like people to think she is, in her $4,000 dress and artfully mussed hair. Vuitton is all “hot starlet, homes all over the place, candy shell,” while the Marc Jacobs “girl” (and they always say “girl”) “is not going to suffer. She’s like, ‘I bought a nice dress, and I’m going to wear it tonight.’ She’s the awkward little sister.”

    It makes sense that Jacobs has settled on Sofia Coppola as his muse. He brings her up a lot, and always with awe. He even, however slightly, pigeons his toes. To Jacobs, the 34-year-old Oscar-winning director, with her flat chest and skinny legs, is “young and sweet and innocent and beautiful. The epitome of this girl I fantasize of.”

    Coppola may be Jacobs’s fantasy girl, but the most important person in his life, through thick and thin—and there have been plenty of earthquakes—is Robert Duffy. He’s part business partner, part brother, part father figure, part soul mate. Jacobs and Duffy met at a dinner thrown by Parsons School of Design, Jacobs’s alma mater, in 1984. “Love”—business love, that is—Duffy says, “at first sight.” Eight years older than Jacobs, Duffy is contained in every way that Jacobs is not: He’s tall, slim, and fastidious, but still happy to slide his feet out of flip-flops and wander his office barefoot. He was looking for a creative partner at the time, and something about Jacobs’s take on fashion clicked with him. “I was taking really expensive cashmere sweaters and shrinking them in the wash,” says Duffy. “I mean, I always thought that someone would pay for that kind of thing.”

    And so did Jacobs. The belief that united them was that no one was making high fashion for young, cool people. And so they launched Jacobs Duffy Designs, Inc. out of a small studio in the garment district, while Jacobs consulted for other brands (Iceberg, Kashiyama) to make money. Almost immediately, Jacobs’s aesthetic struck a chord with people in the fashion industry. He made expensive clothes look super-casual (those shrunken cashmere sweaters were priced at $1,200), which, for the time, was particularly novel. What kept Jacobs and Duffy afloat was the support of key people: Anna Wintour, for example, and the buying teams at Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s, which both began placing big orders. Models like Naomi, Christy, Linda would walk his runway for free.

    But when it came to selling the clothes, they were plagued with the kind of disasters common to young, poorly financed companies: late deliveries, thefts, fires.

    Somehow, Jacobs and Duffy decided to stick it out. “It better have happened,” says Duffy about his success. “There has never been one moment when I thought we would fail. So now it’s our moment and all I can say is, this better have happened. This is really, finally, our moment.”

    In 1986, the designer Perry Ellis died, and that company’s attempts to promote two in-house assistants to the top design job proved disastrous. In 1988, acting on fashion-industry buzz, Perry Ellis hired Jacobs as creative director, and Duffy as president. Finally, they had the money and infrastructure they’d been dying for, even if it meant designing under another name.

    It was hardly a smooth ride: Jacobs finally got what he wanted, and he was mortified; the fear fueled a bad drug habit and, as Jacobs puts it, “an awful lot of drinking.”

    However afraid of failure, he never played it safe design-wise, exploring the ideas that have since become his signature: looking backward for inspiration, a sense of irony and wit, and the tendency—so familiar now, so remarkable then—to represent street clothes on the runway. Jacobs was in love with rock and roll—“the throwaway attitude of it,” says Anna Sui—and that was there, too.

    In 1992, Jacobs showed a landmark collection, one that people still marvel over thirteen years later. Jacobs was into grunge, and he decided to put it on the runway: flannel shirts, thermals (his reimagined in cashmere, a Jacobs signature to this day), Doc Martens, layers and layers, all of it topped with a little crocheted skullcap.

    The press was smitten. The powers at Perry Ellis, however, were not. Jacobs and Duffy were fired shortly thereafter—the executives weren’t convinced women would pay a lot of money for clothes that looked, as Jacobs has always been so fond of describing things, “a little ****ed-up.”

    Jacobs and Duffy rented a store on Mercer Street but couldn’t afford to do anything but leave it empty—and both were approached nonstop with job offers. “The best advice I ever got was that we should stay together,” Duffy says. He mortgaged his house for a second time. “Marc would’ve, too,” Duffy says, “but he didn’t have a house. We just kept thinking, This is how our friends dress, and we can’t be that crazy

    The call came in 1996: Jacobs was in Italy working on the Iceberg collection, and Duffy picked up the phone to find Bernard Arnault on the line. He was in a wildly acquisitive mode: matchmaking hip designers to old French houses—he had John Galliano at Dior, Alexander McQueen at Givenchy, Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe.

    Arnault wanted to meet Jacobs and Duffy, to see their clothes. “I didn’t even bother telling Marc about it at first,” Duffy says. But soon the two were flown to Paris, where Arnault brought up the top jobs at Christian Dior and Givenchy. “We didn’t want to have to follow another designer; we’d done that at Perry Ellis,” Duffy explains. Duffy suggested Louis Vuitton, which, though internationally famous for its handbags, had no ready-to-wear.

    Negotiations lasted eighteen months. Arnault at first didn’t want Duffy, and he didn’t always want to finance Jacobs’s own line. But without backing for the Marc Jacobs label, Jacobs and Duffy weren’t interested. Eventually, Arnault agreed to cough up a relatively small amount. “It was like they said, ‘Let’s just do this to shut them up,’ ” Duffy says. LVMH put up the money ($140,000) needed to open the Mercer Street store and produce the clothes and a few shows. LVMH now owns 96 percent of Marc Jacobs International, the holding company, and has a one-third stake in the trademark.

    to be continued...
  7. ^ It hasn’t been an easy relationship. Duffy has often clashed with the Marc Jacobs CEOs installed by LVMH, and as a result they have been replaced almost annually. And as Duffy and Jacobs struggled constantly to keep up LVMH’s interest and cash flow in Marc Jacobs, they also complained that their personal salaries (under a million each) were way too low.

    Their contract renewal, finally signed in 2004, took a year to hammer out. But this time, thanks to their phenomenal sales, they had leverage, and mass global expansion is well under way. And Jacobs is behaving himself: He used to speak openly, on the record, about how difficult life was with Arnault. Now, when he mentions Arnault, he refers to him as a distant and demanding father, but one who’s started to reward Jacobs for good behavior: dinner with Isabelle Huppert, for example, and, of course, more and more money for Marc Jacobs.

    Regarding Arnault, Jacobs says, “In so many ways, I’ve always felt like this little boy trying to please a father.”

    Jacobs was born in New York City, but his own father died when he was 7, and after that, he moved around a lot. His mother remarried three times, and with each marriage came a move—New Jersey, and then Huntington, Long Island. There was a year in the Bronx, while his mother cared for her dying father, and then back to New Jersey again.
    As a teenager, Jacobs decided he’d had enough. He moved in with his father’s mother on the Upper West Side, to a grand Beaux-Arts apartment in the Majestic, on 72nd and Central Park West. Jacobs’s grandmother was a bit of an Auntie Mame—she’d traveled and had an appreciation for beautiful things, particularly those designed by her grandson. “I always say I lived my life with my grandmother,” Jacobs says. “She was emotionally stable, and she was very encouraging to me.”

    The death of his grandmother in 1987 marked the last meaningful relationship he’d have with any member of his family. “I don’t really wish for it,” he says, and he appears to really mean it. “There was a time when my brother and my sister and I tried. I never get the sense they wanted much to do with me, and I never wanted much to do with them. At one point there was a little bit about them wanting to borrow some money, but then I never heard from them again.”

    After Arnault hired him in 1997, Jacobs’s partying—such a glamorous crutch for the insecure “poseur”—got out of control. “It’s a cliché,” Jacobs says, “but when I drank I was taller, funnier, smarter, cooler.” Using cocaine and even heroin almost nightly, Jacobs stopped showing up, got thrown off airplanes, and pissed off his staff, who ultimately found their boss’s debauchery a pain in the ass. “I would come into work and fall straight to sleep,” Jacobs says, “and then I would tell everyone to come in on a Saturday because we were behind, and then I wouldn’t show up.”

    Every frustrating move by Jacobs was countered with extreme generosity by Duffy: thoughtful gifts for the staff, extravagant parties.

    “More than anything, I hurt for him,” Duffy says paternally. “Marc’s my family. I was just becoming overprotective of him.”

    The relationship was precarious, however, when it came to dealing with LVMH. “They didn’t want to hear any complaints,” Duffy says. “They just kept wanting more product for Vuitton, and I was fighting for Marc Jacobs. It was awful. I mean, I wanted to take drugs! And it was so hard, because I know that Marc is someone who’s in a lot of pain, and I was just letting him destroy himself, and I couldn’t talk about it. Those four years are why I went gray.”

    “It was so hard, because I know that Marc is someone who’s in a lot of pain, and I was just letting him destroy himself,” says Duffy about Jacobs’s early years at LVMH. “Those four years are why I went gray.”

    One of Duffy’s greatest talents is for hiring, and he assembled a sort of global fashion dream team: He got stylists like Katie Grand and Venetia Scott. Camille Miceli, Chanel’s impossibly chic French public-relations director, was lured to Vuitton with the promise of creative input. (She now designs Vuitton’s fashion accessories.)

    Ultimately, two people contacted Duffy directly to insist that something be done about Jacobs’s addictions. One was Anna Wintour, who had realized that the designer she’d been aggressively championing for years was now getting thrown off airplanes. The other was Naomi Campbell.

    Duffy flew to Paris, explained the situation to Arnault—who, Duffy says, “respects creativity”—and checked Jacobs into a rehab center in Arizona. Jacobs kicked and screamed—couldn’t it wait until the collection was over? How about next season?

    Ultimately, though, Jacobs acquiesced. “Finally, I just felt like, for someone who had always wanted to be in fashion more than anything, I wasn’t doing it,” Jacobs says. “I wasn’t even participating. But even still, Robert was the only person who could’ve made me do it.”

    “I can only do so much,” says Jacobs, lighting at least his fifth cigarette on a hot Paris morning. He’s just arrived at work, late-padding through the grand, slick, triple-height lobby of the Louis Vuitton headquarters on the rue du Pont Neuf, dressed in his signature look—which is an aggressive un-look: wet hair frizzing at its ends, dirty-ish T-shirt—resembling more a bike messenger or an intern than the head of a French luxury brand. The offices are more formal than his office in New York, where visitors are greeted by racks of clothes and a baby-faced, blond-haired receptionist boy in a pair of scruffy jeans.

    “When I first moved here, my life was just like a frustrated version of what my life had been in New York,” Jacobs says. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) speak French. He didn’t like the food, the pace, the absence of multiethnic, all-hours takeout food. But, sober, he began to enjoy the city’s gentler rhythms: the quieter nightlife, the diminished options and temptations. Now his life is centered around two dogs and an apartment in a bougie corner of the 8th Arrondissement by the Champs de Mars, surrounded by families and diplomats and the odd tourist on his way to the Eiffel Tower. “I always get this certain anxiety when I’m in New York,” Jacobs says. “I see these billboards and Websites and movie openings and galleries and everyone’s like, ‘Have you seen Desperate Housewives? Have you seen The O.C.?’ I start hyperventilating. How can you stay on top of the art scene and what’s on TV, and read all those books? In New York, I just feel paralyzed by all that I’m missing. I feel stupid, uninformed. I don’t feel like that as much in Paris. It’s healthier for me.”

    Still, there’s plenty to worry about. “Everything is growing and there’s just way too much to do,” he says. On this July morning, he’s just back from a vacation that included a trip to the Venice Biennale and Art Basel, and he’s realized that his nose is too congested to approve the box of fragrance sitting in the corner. (He’s signed off on it, anyway. “I’ll smell it when I can,” he says, shrugging.)

    “Sometimes I find it quite upsetting because I feel like a fraud. It’s not like I ever believed that any one designer does absolutely everything, but . . . ” He gestures around the conference room: His favorite Diptyque candle (scent: Baies) was lit in advance in a divalike move that reminds one that Jacobs is a fashion designer. That wet hair, that dirty shirt, those awkward plastic glasses all involve precise forethought and calculation. He may not be the kind of designer who, as he puts it, “calls people doll and darling,” but he is a designer nonetheless, and a powerful one at that.

    “I often feel uncomfortable,” Jacobs says. “I have this feeling like this is only going to be good as long as it’s good. Am I always full of ideas? No. Those things don’t happen every six months. It’s not even like, You have to change the shape of handbags and the luxury market. It’s like, This has to change the shape of history. And I don’t know how to calculate that. I really don’t.”

    Last February, at the 26th Street Armory, after an excruciating 90-minute wait, Jacobs showed one of the strongest collections of his career. It was dark and it was gothic; the clothes were enormous, lush, and truly beautiful. They were more challenging than one tends to see in New York from such a major designer—it wasn’t easy for the untrained eye to understand, immediately, how so much velvet could ultimately be worn.

    Jacobs, for once, was completely satisfied with his work. “It was a great feeling,” he says. “I wasn’t searching for inspiration, I was finding it everywhere I turned. It was T. J. Wilcox, Violet and the Incredibles, Tim Burton. Mostly, it was all the fallen angels in my life. I just think everyone’s an angel, and an angel is a perfect thing. Now I’m going into storybook land, but it’s the imperfection or the trip that I like. We’re all human, and we’re not supposed to be perfect, but there are certain girls who make mistakes, and I just love that. I love the strength to move forward. It’s very hard to be someone publicly, and then to be human and honest at the same time, say, ‘Yeah, I did that. Yeah, I’m human.’ It’s a dark angel, not dark like an evil spirit, it’s a melancholy, broken, dark soul. It’s a good thing.”

    to be continued...
  8. ^ Jacobs claims that he does almost nothing in pursuit of celebrities—“I’m dead set against courting people,” he says—and yet no fashion show on Earth draws the type of crowd that Jacobs’s does.
    “I look out there before my shows, and it’s like in a movie, where the transparent me sees the real me and all of these people are there, and I just can’t believe it. And every time I’m like, What did you do in your life to deserve this?”

    But he is not without his own celebrity pantheon—the darker heroines like Coppola, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Chloë Sevigny, Sonic Youth rocker Kim Gordon.

    “I think it’s hilarious when different fashion houses do ads with models with electric guitars. Marc always says, ‘I’m not cool, I’m a nerd, blah blah blah,’ ” says Gordon. “People are always saying that about us, too, about Sonic Youth, that my daughter is so lucky to have such a cool mom, but that’s always the last way that I feel. It’s very hard to really be authentic or make deep creative products if your foremost thing is being really cool. You have to have a full range of emotion, and Marc has that.”

    Or, to put it another way, Jacobs averts his gaze and plays the wallflower, which makes the culture all the more avid in its pursuit of him. He’s still into the rock scene, and he’s now, most fruitfully, into the art world, too. His ad campaigns at Marc Jacobs have starred Cindy Sherman and Feinstein; his Vuitton collaboration with Murakami was a worldwide phenomenon.

    “Chanel would be the scariest job in the world to get, but it would also be the coup de grâce. I’d be scared to death and thrilled.”

    Typically, this worries him. “It’s not like I can make the Murakami moment happen again,” he says. “It’s not like if I went to the beach for a week and thought about it, I could come back with an answer. There are moments where it’s like, Oh, God, everything’s okay right now, but if I don’t come up with something soon, how are they going to feel about me then? This is the root of my psychological problems. There’s an exercise that I learned in therapy to be present, to be open to new experiences and then let go of the results. That’s what’s worked for me in the past. Of course, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me in the future.

    “Chanel would be the scariest job in the world to get, but it would also be the coup de grâce. I’d be scared to death and thrilled, but it’s the only thing I’d love to do other than what I’m doing right now. If that’s all that’s left, then that’s not such a bad thing. Karl’s [Lagerfeld] the perfect person for the job, and he’s not going anywhere, but if there’s anything that tickles me behind the ear every once in a while, that’s it. That’s the only, the ultimate, thing.”

    Backstage at the Louis Vuitton spring-summer 2006 men’s fashion show in Paris on the Fourth of July, Marc Jacobs is critiquing the show. “As long as the boys look hot, it works,” he says, as a team of stylists buzz around him in and out of the backstage tent, trying to gauge how much self-tanner is too much self-tanner in the temperamental Paris sunshine. And the boys do look hot: all slim and teenage with surfer hair and perfect teeth.

    “Men’s is just not an area I’m extremely comfortable with,” he says.

    It is up to Jacobs to field reporters’ questions in the crush and swarm of the after-show, to say “Blue Lagoon” a thousand times when asked about inspiration, to sign dozens of autographs for Asian journalists with no compunction about acting like teenage fans.

    “I didn’t really do anything,” he says.

    After the show, he turns up at Le Baron, a Paris bar with red walls and banquettes that Jacobs describes as “the hottest place in Paris. When Sofia was living here, she came all the time.”

    On the dance floor, he does a series of pogo-y, mosh-pit moves to eighties songs spun by a pair of fat, hairy drag queens. He looks, bopping around, singing along to old Wham!, like he never wants to grow up.

    On a Friday afternoon a month later, Jacobs is in his New York office, getting ready for a Scout Niblett concert at the Knitting Factory, and he’s talking about what he’d really like to do next, and it’s not even Chanel. What Marc Jacobs wants most is to fall in love—“operatic” love, if at all possible.
    “For the first time in my life, I can stay home alone and feel okay,” he says. “I used to think that if I was alone physically, that meant I was lonely, but for the first time in my life, this is not the case. But I don’t think I like being single. In sobriety, I definitely haven’t had the romance I’m dreaming of. I’m not looking to hook up with someone for a wild time out anymore. I hate the word mature . . . ” Jacobs’s voice trails off and he blushes a bit.

    “There are nights when I can’t sleep. I go into a fantasyland and tableau sort of thinking, like, Tonight would be the perfect night to say, ‘Honey, I’m really tired and worried about work. And tell me about your day.’ ”

    “Do you think someone will read this and try to get in touch with me?” He looks hopeful. “If I read that about someone, I’d drop him a note.”

  9. Great article! Thanks for posting!
  10. Great article bag.lover! You always keep us up to date!! T4P!
  11. What is that FAB red bag in the first photo?
  12. It's from Fall 2007 Collection, I don't have info on it yet. =)
  13. =====
    (source: THE INDEPENDENT - UK)
    Marc Jacobs: Rags to riches

    From grunge to couture - the most influential designer in the world is coming to London

    By Hermione Eyre
    Published: 28 January 2007

    You may not know it, but you probably own something inspired by Marc Jacobs. Perhaps it's a subtle nod to the New York designer - the bow on your pumps, the oversize button on your jacket; perhaps it's an out-and-out steal, like the back-alley version of his Jessica Stam bag that you carry. Or perhaps - begging your pardon, madam - yours is the genuine item, a snip at £760. But what's certain is that Jacobs is a supremely influential fashion designer - and will no doubt star in New York this week. But after that he's coming to London.

    Next month he opens his first UK store (a 2,600sqft former antiques store on Mount Street, in Mayfair); the week after next he closes London Fashion Week with a show that will unveil the spring/summer '07 collection for his second line, Marc by Marc Jacobs (which, though you couldn't call it cheap, does not require quite such extensive remortgaging as the premiere Marc Jacobs line). Both these events are fabulously important to Lady Twitty Longlegs and her fashionista friends, of course - but even the rest of us can appreciate that it's a big deal for an international designer to choose to launch a collection here, rather than on "the circuit" of Paris, New York and Milan.

    Some even believe his attention-grabbing presence could be detrimental to top British designers such as Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon, but Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, believes big names such as Jacobs only help bring power and momentum to fashion in this country. "I suggested that he come to London Fashion Week, actually. So I'm pleased to see he is," she says. "He's one of the most talented designers in the world right now. He knows what people want to wear before they do."

    Marc Jacobs was born in New York City in 1963. His father died when he was seven; when his mother, whom he describes as "troubled", remarried five years later, young Marc went to live with his grandmother on Central Park West. She was a great influence on Marc. "She had very specific shops where she would buy different things, her scarves and her stockings, her coats and capes ..." he remembers. She also believed in him. In the butcher's, she would tell the staff he was going to be the next Calvin Klein.

    He followed a time-honoured route: part-time job in a chic boutique, Charivari, and a degree in womenswear at Parsons School of Design in NYC. There, he won prizes: two designer-sponsored Golden Thimbles, no less. He designed and knitted his own line in jumpers, decorated with cartoon figures. He started living with his boyfriend and visiting Studio 54 at weekends, not to be seen so much as to see. "I was a voyeur ... The tall lanky boys in shrunken jackets and girls with leopard-skin eyes - to me, they looked like images from Alice in Wonderland."

    He left college in 1984 and hooked up with his business partner, Robert Duffy. Among Jacobs's gifts is the ability to pick and keep a great team. Venetia Scott, who works with him, is rated by many as the best stylist in the business, a behind-the-scenes star; ditto Suzanne Deakin.

    In 1989 Duffy and Jacobs joined Perry Ellis as president and vice- president of womenswear. It was to be a short tenure. Jacobs proved himself far too edgy for the label, producing a now legendary collection themed around grunge in 1992. Big mistake. New York was so not ready for satin Birkenstocks, heavy boots and the waif-gone-mad-in-Oxfam look. When Jacobs posed naked between chrome yellow sheets for Vanity Fair, Perry Ellis decided enough was enough and publicly sacked him and Duffy. Jacobs had hired a certain then little-known denim designer called Tom Ford, and he followed them out of the door too.

    It has been said that Jacobs has had "more comebacks than Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday", and this was his first. Duffy sold his house to meet their bills (Jacobs didn't have one to sell). Jacobs set up his solo label. Donatella Versace and Anna Wintour joined in the standing ovation for his first show. He became New York's "dauphin of grungy, understated cool" (US Vogue).

    There followed a spell in rehab, which left him teetotal. "I can't go back there, not for a second." He lives quietly in Paris, where he enjoys shopping for silverware and walking his dogs. But the man still loves a party. His label's Christmas do is always an event. Last year its fancy dress theme was Venetian Carnival, and Jacobs, mindful of the occupants of St Mark's Square, went as a pigeon.

    Suzy Menkes has observed that in fashion, nowadays, individual designers have no power without mega-companies behind them. This was true for Marc Jacobs, and it was only when he was hired by Louis Vuitton in 1997 that he and his solo label gained real heft. "They were kind of our saviour," he says, of LVMH - though that accolade could also go to Winona Ryder, who liked his clothing so much she stole several items from Saks.

    At LVMH, things did not go entirely smoothly, however. He did away with the LV monogram and produced - brace yourself - a plain Vuitton bag. Then he engaged the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to doodle on a clutch bag, and NY veteran Stephen Sprouse to graffiti a slouch. But when these designs became so popular that the revenue of LVMH doubled, Jacobs was vindicated. With characteristic prescience, he had foreseen that the public mood was turning against ostentatious labelling. He picked up the fin-de-siècle vintage trend early, too.

    Jacobs's approach is not pretentious or esoteric. "I know a piece will work when I can imagine someone I know running around in it," he says. But before we get too carried away and call him a designer with a common touch, let us remember that chum of his he is imagining running around is probably Debbie Harry or Sofia Coppola. He has friends in vertiginously high places: Chloe Sevigny, Liv Tyler, Daryl Hannah, Jarvis Cocker, Hilary Swank - the list goes on. But unlike, say, Giorgio Armani, he never gives the impression of haughtiness. The advert for his perfume, for example, was an out-of-focus poolside snap of Sofia Coppola, a statement of his laid-back, intimate aesthetic.

    His casual look, though, comes at a price. The most expensive handbag in Selfridges is one of his designs, a patchwork crocodile skin at £13,000. A recent Vogue article laid the blame for our current mania for expensive handbags at his door.

    Yet despite the hyper-inflated prices, the ubiquitous high-street copies and the burgeoning world domination (stores are opening this spring in Tokyo, Dubai and Savannah, Georgia) Jacobs remains a likeable figure, a modest, non-showy fashion designer who acknowledges his success cannot but fade.

    "I'd like it to go on for ever, though," he says, with a smile.

  14. =====
    (source: Independent Newspapers )
    FASHION SPECIAL: Making his Marc

    Independent, The (London), Feb 12, 2005 by Susie Rushton

    IT IS the day before his menswear show for Louis Vuitton in Paris and Marc Jacobs is feeling, in his words, "very, very chatty", the result, he says of "about three hours' sleep and six coffees already. Well, it's showtime. I'll clean up my act after the show."

    It's gruelling being so popular. Women the world over - hipsters such as Chloe Sevigny, Zoe Cassavetes, the actress daughter of John, and Kim Gordon, the singer/bassist of Sonic Youth; fashion editors including Anna Wintour; working women from Lisbon to Liverpool who wear his flat "mouse" pumps and tote his big-buckled bags; teenagers who scoop up armfuls of Marc-"inspired" gear at Topshop - can't get enough of designs by the 41- year-old native New Yorker. When even Winona Ryder is moved to half-inch his cashmere tops from a Saks Fifth Avenue store (as she famously did in 2001, Jacobs promptly rewarding her with a starring role in his ad campaign), it seems an understatement to describe his designs as desirable.

    Through his eponymous label, his less expensive line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and, since 1997, his increasingly acclaimed collections for Louis Vuitton, Jacobs succeeds in predicting exactly what women want to wear, season after season. So how does the designer, also known for his own dressed- down image of plain sweaters and trainers, pull it off?

    Not by holing himself up in an office, sitting in front of a blank page and letting his fantasies run free. "I don't live in a bubble," he says, insisting that his method is based on teamwork and observing those around him. "I'm not a director or a dictator," he says, firmly, "I'm a collaborator and I like to work with people - part of what I contribute is making the creative choice to work with certain people." Substitute "certain people" with "certain very stylish women such as the stylist Venetia Scott and film director Sofia Coppola" and something of the workings behind the Marc Jacobs phenomenon is revealed.

    He even describes the celebrities that star in his ad campaigns (Jennifer Lopez and Uma Thurman for LV; Jarvis Cocker and Charlotte Rampling for his own label), model in his runway shows, (Christina Ricci) and even contribute designs (NERD's Pharrell Williams has created sunglasses for Vuitton) as "collaborations with artists. Period. They are iconic artists who contribute to today." Yet Jacobs is nothing if not democratic and his less celebrated employees and colleagues, too, are liable to influence the season's look.

    "Each individual woman on my f team has a quirkiness or thing about her that I think is contemporary," he explains in a throaty drawl roughened up by numerous pre-show cigarettes. "It's the way people dress today - whether it's Salome in a big sweatshirt or Emily who wears a certain kind of jacket or Irene who wears short skirts; at Vuitton, Camille is always an inspiration. Jane, the way her pants fit her ..." No wonder Jacobs' designs have a sense of being luxurious and, at the same time, rooted in a familiar vocabulary of clothing: the sweet party dress, the pastel sweater, the round-toed girlie shoes. As Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, puts it, "I think Marc's genius is to show that luxury can be young, fun and cool. It's not about looking rich. It's about the most luxurious version of your most wearable pieces."

    Jacobs was also one of the first designers to capitalise on the fin de siecle taste for vintage fashion. Instead of ignoring the style revolution fuelled by flea markets and second-hand shops in Brooklyn and Brick Lane, Jacobs designed brand-new clothes with many of the nostalgic details that women - particularly influential stylists and models - were finding seductive.

    The strategy still works. For instance, this season's collection for Louis Vuitton emphasised Forties-style peplum suits, while a delicious mish-mash of references to historical circus costumes resulted in ultra- feminine frills and Peter Pan collars. For his own label this spring, tropical-coloured Fifties-style party dresses are destined to be a hit, while for his youngest customers, the designer is rocking a mid-Eighties, New Romantic mood with Marc by Marc Jacobs.

    One result of Jacobs' successful reinterpretation of vintage is that he's regularly credited/blamed with spearheading a quick- change seasonal return to the Sixties-Forties-Twenties and back again. In short, "retro fashion". "People always say I'm locked into certain periods. I'm not," he shoots back, "and I don't sit with a book open in front of me, trying to recreate a period. But I've got no problem with retro-vintage-whatever, because this is how I see the girls I know wearing clothes today."

    Jacobs is not alone in informing his designs with fashion history; he offers a satisfyingly starry anecdote to prove his point: "Here in Paris recently I was out with Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola - because they're working on Sofia's movie - and Kirsten was wearing a Chloe dress and Sofia was wearing a Lanvin dress and they both looked like girls of today, although in fact both dresses have very, very old references - to old gowns." He's too modest to say it (constantly interjecting his fast-flowing speech with "I don't mean to blow my own horn") but perhaps neither Lanvin nor Chloe would be making those references if it weren't for the trail he blazed. But for all the adulation he receives today (not to mention pecuniary rewards - LVMH, the group that owns Louis Vuitton and Jacobs' own labels, last year signed him up for a further 10 years) his path to success has been a rocky one.

    JACOBS WAS born in the Upper West Side on 9 April 1963. When he was seven his father died, and after his mother remarried five years later, he moved in with his grandmother on Central Park West. Jacobs cites her as one of his greatest influences. "She took great care of her appearance and instilled in me that it was better to have a good sweater than six pieces of junk. She had very f specific shops where she would buy different things, her scarves and stockings, her coats and capes. She stored her shoes in transparent boxes and took care of her fur coats - she was just quite thorough in that way."

    As a teenager he worked at Charivari, a chic boutique near his grandmother's home, where he folded shirts. At around the same time, he gravitated towards Manhattan clublife. "I saw young people who seemed to live this life of getting dressed and going to discos. I was a voyeur, whether it was on the punk-rock scene or at the Mudd Club or Hurrah. The tall lanky boys in shrunken jackets and girls with leopardskin coats and racoon eyes - to me, they looked like images from Alice in Wonderland. And then at Studio 54, the hedonism and the sexuality that filled the air, full of beautifully dressed people who seemed to have nothing to do but get dressed up ..."

    Clearly, this milieu made a big impression on Jacobs, whose current approach to design remains uncannily close to this teenaged voyeurism of a beautiful crowd. To his credit, though, Jacobs wasn't a simple club kid. After high school, he studied fashion at the Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village, where his graduation project of 1984 - knitted sweaters with cartoonish emblems - caught the attention of Robert Duffy, an executive in the garment industry; to this day Duffy remains his business partner.

    In 1986 they launched the Marc Jacobs label and in the following year Jacobs was the youngest designer ever to pick up the Council of Fashion Designers of America award for new talent. Seventh Avenue success appeared to arrive when, in 1989, Jacobs was hired by Perry Ellis, the American sportswear company, to head up womenswear. From this point, Jacobs' star should have ascended. Instead, his stint there ended in ignominy.

    "They wanted me to do more commercial, ladylike clothes. I tried to do what they wanted. And I was miserable. I didn't sleep at night." In 1992 - the same year as he picked up his second CFDA award - Jacobs took Perry Ellis in a less conservative direction, with inspiration from the Seattle grunge-music scene. "I loved the energy of that music, and models like Kate Moss, photographers like Juergen Teller and David Sims. I saw all this stuff happening and I felt there was beauty in imperfection." Jacobs insists that this notorious collection - satin Birkenstocks, floral dresses, big boots and a flannel check shirt that he had sent over to Italy and reworked in "gorgeous, gorgeous four-ply silk crepe" wasn't deliberately provocative. "It was a celebration of what I felt," he says. "And I was criticised. They said, `Who's going to wear a beaded evening gown with a plaid shirt over it?'" Indeed, the fashion press almost unanimously slated the collection even though, as Jacobs points out, models such as Stella Tennant and Emma Balfour were at that time wearing exactly this kind of deliberately down-at- heel style. Again: "It was based on what I saw contemporary girls doing." Jacobs and Duffy were fired, very publicly.

    to be continued...
  15. ^ Over the following five years the pair did all they could to develop their own label. Anna Wintour was a loyal supporter, even through the grunge debacle, but, as Jacobs himself puts it, "pages in Vogue don't pay the bills" and his tiny team were living "hand to mouth", with Duffy re-mortgaging his home. Finally, in 1997, a lifeline was thrown by French fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault, who was busily extending his f luxury goods empire, LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton). "They were kind of our saviour," says Jacobs.

    In return for bolstering the Marc Jacobs label (which has since blossomed into home collections, perfume and, in 1995, menswear - despite the fact that he now openly tells me, "I'm not a big lover of men's fashion," and, "I like it when guys just dress casually"), Arnault invited the American designer to create men's and women's ready-to-wear fashion for Louis Vuitton. At the time, the status brand was known only for its hugely successful, but not particularly cool, logo-printed accessories. From the start, Jacobs excluded all trace of the Monogram from the clothing . This far-sighted approach is now paying off grandly.

    By contrast Jacobs' limited-edition handbag designs were an instant hit. Again, they were the result of judiciously chosen collaborations - first with the New York artist Stephen Sprouse for a graffiti design, then with the Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami for a multicoloured monogram model (Murakami's contribution to the current collection is in monogrammed leather doodled with cute cherries).

    Today Jacobs lives permanently in Paris, with sorties across the Atlantic "at least once a month", and confesses to "just staying at home with my dogs" in his spare time, pottering around shops in search for "silverware and stationery". His lack of vices is a fairly recent development. "I was a wild teenager until I was 36," he booms, with a laugh, when asked about his notoriously wild younger years. "Now I smoke cigarettes, but that's the last vice I have. I had plenty of them years ago but I've got rid of all those. They were, as they say, `removed'," he says, wryly. These days, he says, he's usually found "watching DVDs and reading books at home". Which is probably just as well - three stratospheric collections, plus menswear and all the rest, can't be a walkover, even though he does delegate many design duties.

    Jacobs is remarkably casual and unpretentious considering his success in an infamously mannered industry; he's also disarmingly candid and possessed of a blunt sense of humour. While other designers might flinch at the swarms of knock-offs of his work that now arrive with increasing predictability on the high street each season, the non-dictatorial, collaborative and effortlessly cool Marc Jacobs takes it square on the chin.

    "I'm actually proud that something we've done would be copied," he says. "I'm not an inventor. I mean, I've referenced things and I've appropriated things so I'm not the owner of anything. So, not to toot my own horn, but I've seen copies and it's very nice. I mean, most recently I've seen the multicoloured monogram - the one that so many women wanted - as a stuffed squeaky toy in a pet store! It was called Chewy Vuitton and," he says with relish, "to me that was the ultimate."

    Marc Jacobs and Marc are available from Browns 26 South Molton Street, London W1, 020-7491 7833; Harrods Knightsbridge, London SW1, 020-7730 1234; Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge, London SW1, 020-7235 5000; Matches 60-64 Ledbury Road, London W11, 020- 7221 0255; Selfridges 400 Oxford Street, London W1, 0870 837 7377; Designer Fashion - NET-A-PORTER.COM. Marc Jacobs is also available from Liberty Regent Street, London W1, 020-7734 1234. Louis Vuitton, 17-18 New Bond Street, London W1, 020-7399 4050.

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