All week on social media, Marc Jacobs has been commemorating the 40th anniversary of his brand, including releasing a celebratory campaign starring Cindy Sherman, and a viral video featuring the 60-year-old designer trying and failing to blow out the candles on a dangerously blazing cake.
The expectation, then, was that his new collection, which was presented on Friday night in Manhattan, would be a greatest hits affair. In the end, it transpired that middle age has not mellowed the iconoclastic brand enough to be quite so obvious as that.
Rather, Jacobs’ new collection, which was shown inside the Upper East Side’s cavernous Park Avenue Armory, was inspired by 1960s paper dolls – specifically the oversized proportions of the paper clothes which were “worn” by those dolls, and attached with tabs. That concept gave the show a surreal edge.
Many of the clothes had an unusual fit – waistlines jutted out from the hips; the additional fabric of oversized shorts was gathered at the back, sweetheart necklines protruded, while 1960s-style skirt suits were puffed up to oversized, cartoonish proportions.
One model wore a knitted top on which was a trompe l’oeil bikini. There was ironic noughties nostalgia, too, in a play on Juicy Couture-style velour playsuits in My Little Pony colours with Jacobs’ name emblazoned in diamanté on the back. There was a touch of the Trebor Softmint advert to the spongy, puffed-up textures which extended to a new, undulating take on Mary Jane platform shoes.
The procession of polished-yet-skewed 1960s and 70s looks also had a touch of The Stepford Wives to them, a novel Jacobs recently posted an image of himself reading on Instagram (under which Paris Hilton, who wore Marc Jacobs to the last Met Gala, and who seems to know how to satirise herself, commented: “Reading is hot.”)
The surreal doll’s house feel was boosted by the set. It featured No Title (Folding table and chairs, beige), a 2006 work by Robert Therrien of a giant table and chairs. Models walked around this huge installation looking lilliputian and all the more doll-like for their makeup, which comprised multiple pairs of fake, doll-like eyelashes. They also wore large wigs which, according to the show’s hairstylist, Duffy, were created in homage to the Supremes, whose influence was felt in the final series of gorgeous 1970s-style bell-sleeved dresses in shimmering gold sequins and palettes.
Some in the audience felt the influence of the Emma Stone movie Poor Things; others saw the mob-wife trend in the 1970s dresses and interpreted the hair as a reference to the bouffants worn by Naomi Watts as Babe Paley in Feud: Capote vs The Swans, the fashion-forward Ryan Murphy show on Netflix in the US. In a sign of Jacobs’ continued cultural clout, one of the stars of that show, Chloë Sevigny, was in the audience, wearing a plaid coat from Jacobs’ autumn/winter 2007 collection. Other long-term muses and campaign stars in attendance included Sofia Coppola, Dakota Fanning and Debbie Harry, who wore polka dot gloves and tights under a black coat.
For the fashion experts, there were moments that subtly recalled the designs with which Jacobs made his name in the 90s and 00s: the ladylike coats and jackets, even the oversized knits. (Jacobs’ first fashion success was producing oversized knitted sweaters, which were hand-knitted by his grandmother as part of his Parsons College thesis in the 1980s.) But Jacobs’ notes distributed at the show were far from nostalgic and only referenced the past obliquely. They declared the collection an effort to express “something naive and elegant” through a “disorienting” familiarity and said: “Through the unavoidable lens of time my glass remains full of wonder and reflection.”