Marc of success


Staff member
Marc Jacobs is the guy who can change the direction of a fashion juggernaut with a single silhouette. If other designers are doing sleek and slim, he'll do big and poufy. If everyone else is doing neutral colours, he'll go bold.

There have been the grunge collections, the granny collections, harem pants, punk prom dresses and ultra-chic skirt suits. If they seem out of step with trends seen elsewhere on runways during a particular season, the others come around in the weeks and months that follow, just when Jacobs is ready to move on again.

Yet, while he swaps out the details in rapid fire, there is almost unparalleled consistency, too: He likes surprises, takes risks, embraces showmanship, pairs patterns and textures, finds balance between artistry and commercialism, and sees the importance in a visual statement.

He keeps the jaded industry on its toes — sometimes with a little arrogance. But editors, stylists, retailers and celebrities seem to stay firmly supportive of Jacobs with constant toasts to his talent.

‘It's crazy'

One of the biggest lovefests came on Monday at the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America awards. Jacobs has been selected as the lifetime achievement winner.

"It's crazy," Jacobs said ahead of the event. "I mean, I have a lot more to do. ‘Achievement' sounds final. I'd like to call it ‘Lifetime of achievement — and for what's left to achieve."

"I have no intention of slowing down. I don't rest anyway."

One thinks of Jacobs as the quirky downtown guy, even if he's at the forefront of two mega brands — his namesake collection, plus Louis Vuitton and all the subsidiaries that go with it, including the contemporary-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line, swimwear, sunglasses, shoes and handbags.

He sleeps with Post-It notes and a pen at his bedside to jot down the barrage of thoughts, inspirations and reminders that come between what are essentially naps, but organised with lists and schedules he is not, Jacobs says with a laugh.

He's also an avid consumer of art and culture, including music, movies and contemporary paintings and sculpture. Interiors are a passion at the moment, and he has started to collect Art Deco furniture. The most peaceful points of his day are mornings at the gym and evening walks with his two English bull terriers.

"As soon as the New York shows are over, I'm on a plane after the Marc show. I take one day to recover, then I take in at Louis Vuitton things I've only seen by the internet. I'm overwhelmed by all the stuff that progresses and there's a constant series of fittings, corrections, additions," he explained. "The next show is always the most important thing."

Loving attention

Jacobs' Fashion Week shows are musts not only for those making the buying and editorial decisions from the front row, but they consistently are the most viewed and buzzed about online by shoppers and fans. The designer pays attention to what everyone is saying.

"I read what people say. It affects me greatly. That's what is the biggest pressure: I feel like we're competing with ourselves each time," Jacobs says. "I always feel each season is the strongest show we've had, and I guess every time the new season begins, I go through all the stress and anxiety of what we are going to do next. It's always time to start over."

All the newness, however, isn't completely free of baggage from the past, including diva moments, a party-hard attitude and stints in rehab. And then there are the fashion upstarts trying to mimic his meteoric rise and become the new bellwether.

It's not a matter of the accolades, money or even attention, all of which he readily admits he loves — especially the attention, Jacobs said. It's about a paying customer making a choice. "That's how I define success: Seeing someone in something I've had a hand in designing. It could be shoes, a bag, a dress. If we're lucky enough that someone has chosen ours, I'm so grateful and I'm always struck by it."

The payoff is undeniable, though. "I'm first and foremost a fashion fan — it's my original reason for doing this, and it's still my reason for doing this."