Marc Jacobs: Visionary Fashion
Marc Jacobs has said of his childhood, “No one ever said ‘no’ to me about anything,” he said. “No one ever told me anything was wrong. Never. No one ever said, ‘You can’t be a fashion designer.’ No one ever said, ‘You’re a boy and you can’t take tap-dancing lessons.’ No one ever said, ‘You’re a boy and you can’t have long hair.’ No one ever said, ‘You can’t go out at night because you’re 15 and 15-year-olds don’t go to nightclubs.’ No one said it was wrong to be gay or right to be straight.” This highly permissive way of child rearing is quite possibly the lone reason we know and enjoy the Marc Jacobs design aesthetic we get today.
Here we get a man whose desire to break every rule has driven him to reposition Louis Vuitton into a ready to wear brand. We have a man in Jacobs, who designs like no one has or ever will tell him no. His constant quest to break the mold makes his design inspiration impossible to predict, and his various inspirations impossible to ignore. He throws viewers for a loop every season as he clings to a signature style that is all his own, but presents something that is fresh and unrelated every time. In 2008 and again in 2010, style.com reviewed his spring RTW as having details reminiscent of The King and I. But the beauty of the Marc Jacobs aesthetic is that in those two different lines, the inspiration manifested itself in two different ways.
This is often the case with the native New Yorker. He has taken pieces that are outdated or just plain ugly and changed them into something that is fashion mastery. He also has the uncanny ability to make old fashion look modern and refined or tacky and make it look tasteful and bold. He can give silhouettes from as distant as the 1960’s a fresh spin. That is exactly what he did this past spring! In his spring 2013 RTW show Jacobs gave us 60’s that looked like the new millennium. He has proven to the audience time and time again that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can throw a sparkly new rim on it and make that car look totally different. He doesn’t pretend to want to innovate a new piece of clothing; he wants us to rethink the ones that are already available.
The designer hasn’t flirted with the idea of exclusive femininity in a line since his 2003 spring show. What he gives us instead is always a balance. It’s as balanced as the girl who rides a motorcycle to Rodeo Dr. to pick out her outfit for a ball. He has mastered this constant struggle between hard and soft for many seasons now, so much so that it has become a part of his calling card. This is also a particular design aesthetic that has been a driving force in fashion design, in part because of his mastery. He has inspired many designers to flirt with this constant juxtaposition of girl vs. girl-dressed-like-a-boy-who-looks-like-a-girl.
Marc Jacobs is a fashion maker. His humble beginning, his bout with addiction, his idolization of Yves Saint Laurent, and yes, even his own self-confidence issues always find a way to show through his work. He says in an interview for the book Fashion Now 2, “I define design as a series of creative choices. …for me it is a very painful process because I feel like there has to be integrity and meaning in the choices. And I doubt myself a lot, I don’t really have any self-confidence. But I really really enjoy being a part of the process. I guess it’s a gift to feel so passionate about something.” This really sums up the catalog he has given us. We have all been a witness to his series of choices; we have seen his pain, his triumphs and his shortcomings all there on the runway. It takes a special kind of designer to give so much of himself in that way.