In today’s brand-saturated media world, brand loyalty is perhaps an outdated concept, and as in the case of technology brands, a futile and expensive project. But for those of us raised to appreciate quality over quantity, to research the best of the best on the market, and to stick with our choice in a code of honour and loyalty that perhaps seem somewhat old-fashioned, there is a certain satisfaction in identifying with the things we like. So here are some of the things I found in my fashion research, and the reasons why Marc Jacobs is the man:
Marc has a great sense of humour: The fashion industry can be a joke. Often quite literally. It is over-priced, superficial, vicious, pompous, snobby, elitist, racist, sexist, materialist, fake, and often politically incorrect. Marc Jacobs often finds creative and self-reflexive ways of pointing that out in his work. By launching his affordable sub-label of Marc by Marc Jacobs, he followed into the footsteps of Giorgio Armani, who with the various tiers of his label (Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Armani Jeans, and Armani Exchange) set a successful precedent and created a fashion empire. This democratization of fashion works against the elitism of the fashion industry by bringing mass production into the sphere of haute couture and designer fashion, which until recently was an oxymoron. All clothing is mass produced to some extent, the price difference and label tiers merely reflect whether they were produced by a team of loyal seamstresses and tailors in the New York, Milan, or Paris headquarters, or by underpaid factory workers in developing countries. So, many of Marc’s “cheaper” and mass-produced designs are made in China and cost anywhere between $3 and $200. His self-reflexive humour becomes apparent in designs such as this bag; mocking the labeling practices of the fashion industry, he creates an Escher-esque design out of his own label: Jacobs by Mark Jacobs for Mark by Marc Jacobs in collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Marc inspires: Watching his work process, ethics, collaborations, and tireless creativity in the brilliantly constructed documentary Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton, by Loïc Prigent (2007) gives us a glimpse of the actual person and his craft. Entering the meeting rooms at Louis Vuitton in Paris and at the Marc Jacobs headquarters in New York (72 Spring St. 8th floor), we witness the creative team help Marc brainstorm for the new collections, drawing inspiration from art, music, and culture, gathering ideas in image and fabrics collages on large poster boards, and in truly Cubist fashion, creating a new concepts out of shards and fragments of recycled culture. His creativity, focus, and dedication inspire.
Marc on creativity: “My therapist says, for instance, all creative people have ups and downs; it’s very hard to operate creatively on a schedule. You know, some days you just don’t feel like it. And you can’t be inspired because you decide you want to be. And then there are pitfalls and obstacles every day. So it’s always a struggle, I think, to create something. But if you love doing it, you find a way.”
Marc has good politics: As Loïc Prigent tells us in the voice-over narration of his documentary, “Marc Jacobs is afraid of nothing. One of his brands is called “Stinky Rat” and its logo is a stinky rat. In his window displays, he has taken a political stand against his government and the war in Iraq. He’s done everything a marketing consultant would urge one not to do with a luxury brand. Yet his stores are full.”
Marc is not arrogant: Unlike the other designers of the older generation, who pride themselves on their snobby eccentricities and wastefulness, Marc comes across as humble and polite. He stands out in his interactions with his team, staff, collaborators, artists, and friends. It’s refreshing to have a creative genius in the fashion industry who is not only talented and incredibly intelligent, but also self-deprecating, grounded, and friendly.
Marc on Fashion: “I always look at those editorials in fashion magazines and all the decrees of all these editors saying, “Oh it’s all about darker, more sober or sombre mood, and fashion has shifted and this is what’s this, and this is what’s that.” And I just find the whole thing so preposterous because it’s never really true. Everything always exists. And even if there is a change in mood within the work of a few designers, even when you go to their shops and see their things, everything else exists, it’s like you make a choice to present something in fashion, but it’s not like you just annihilate everything that’s come before. Fashion people are so ridiculous, thinking that they’re the whole world. So I just like the idea of doing something light.”
Marc got fired from Perry Ellis for his “grunge” vision and built up his own label: Following his studies at Parsons, Jacobs began to design at Perry Ellis after its founder had died. Jacobs became prominent on the fashion scene when he designed a grunge collection for Perry Ellis, leading to his dismissal in 1993. Together with Robert Duffy, they formed Jacobs Duffy Designs Inc. In 1986, he designed his first collection bearing the Marc Jacobs label. In 1997, Marc Jacobs was appointed Creative Director of luxury French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, where he created the company’s first ready-to-wear line. Charlie Rose interviewed Marc in 1998 when he was preparing for his first Louis Vuitton collection. He introduced his secondary line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, with a spring 2001 runway show. In the Spring of 2007 a full line of children’s wear, aptly named Little Marc Jacobs was launched. In January, 2008 a Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique opened in Chicago’s Bucktown and several limited edition fragrances were launched. There is now also a Marc Jacobs book store in New York, Bookmarc, on 400 Bleeker St. In April 2010, Marc Jacobs was chosen to be among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Marc has a refreshing attitude to beauty: According to Marc Jacobs, “defects are good. We’re celebrating them. It’s great being uncool.” Already with his controversial grunge collection in the 1990s, Marc Jacobs challenged conventional beauty and fashion standards by presenting the public with a line of clothes that did not adhere to the established standards of what is considered beautiful. Explaining his clothes, Marc Jacobs said “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… My clothes are not hot. Never. Never.”
In Prigent’s documentary we watch Marc Jacobs’ quest for more or less random distraction because the idea of chaos interests him. Chaos he plays with: “Is it so horrible that it’s beautiful, or just so horrible that it’s horrible?” He creates a mix of “rich and poor, ugly and beautiful, twee and twisted.”
The New York-based artist Elizabeth Payton described the link between fashion and art as: “I think when you’re outside of art, it can seem like some impenetrable world, but he was really right there already with all his ideas and thoughts. When he started collecting art, he knew what he wanted. He just seems so in-tuned with culture and he’s making culture. Like he’s sort of remaking the world in his image, by sending off people, girls down the street, in sequined ballet flats and purple corduroys. I think that’s so brilliant and incredibly powerful – the kind of affect you can have on the world through your will alone. That’s basically what artists are doing, remaking their world within their work.”