That rumours of the artistic demise of the New York fashion week legend Marc Jacobs had been vastly exaggerated was evident when Anna Wintour broke into a run on Park Avenue to make sure she arrived on time for the start of Jacobs’ show. Even the US Vogue editor-in-chief, peerless in her power over the city’s fashion scene, could not afford to miss this.
Last month, Jacobs addressed persistent rumours that his label was in financial difficulties, telling Women’s Wear Daily there was no truth in gossip that he was set to hand over creative control, and adding that the talk was “upsetting and stressful” to his staff.
His show on Wednesday – rumoured to be in danger of being cancelled – went ahead, and to a full house which included Nicki Minaj and Raf Simons, designer at that other Manhattan fashion institution, Calvin Klein.
The one constant of Jacobs’ New York fashion week shows is that whichever way the prevailing winds of commercial fashion are blowing, he will send his models striding in the opposite direction, and most likely in really strange shoes.
And so it was that at a time when most designers are reframing their shows as immersive, multi-sensory brand experiences – a street party with burgers in greaseproof paper at Alexander Wang; a black-tie dinner amid a collection of James Bond level cars at Ralph Lauren – Jacobs did the exact opposite, stripping the catwalk show to its bare bones.
A long, single row of folding chairs were lined up around the Park Avenue Armory. Two minutes after the stated 6pm start time, the show began in silence. And so it continued, the solemnity of the parade a foil to the eccentricity of the clothes, the only sound that of the caller whose job it is to instruct each model to “go”, until an opera-flooded finale.
The collection was a journey – provocatively, in the context of rumour about the label’s future – through the Marc Jacobs archives. The muse was Kate Moss at the Met Gala in 2009, when the model was dressed by Jacobs in a draped chainmail silver mini-gown with matching turban. (The longtime Jacobs muse Sofia Coppola, recently photographed in a turban by Steven Meisel, was also namechecked by the designer.)
The satin headwraps, created by the British milliner Stephen Jones, a longstanding Jacobs collaborator, were a constant throughout the collection. Depending on the model, the outfit, the light or the addition of jewelled brooches, they seemed at various points to conjure Nefertiti, Greta Garbo, north African headwraps, and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Jacobs recently softened his initially punchy response to last year’s accusations of cultural appropriation, acknowledging that he may have been insensitive. This collection showed that his enthusiasm for cross-cultural referencing was unbowed: prints roamed from Indonesian batik to Pucci swirls, from Savile Row pinstripe to Japanese florals.
The outlandishness of the silhouettes – harem-pant sportswear, giant-sized cardigans – was offset by shrewdly commercial bags. Flight bags, bumbags and duffels blended utilitarian shapes with retro attitude. And in one aspect – perhaps more by accident than design – the show was bang on trend. From Haribo orange to Kermit green, the “super-bold glowing-sunshine palette” was in step with the trend for primary colours which has swept New York.