Photo: (Photo by Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images)
Marc Jacobs is not your average fashion designer. Other designers want to sell you a dress; Jacobs wants to mess with your head.The Marc Jacobs catwalk show is the gravitational centre of New York fashion week. This collection is the one which, more than any other, points to the direction ahead. Over six months, a team of hundreds and a budget of millions go into producing a collection of, in this instance, 45 outfits.
The show began on the stroke of 8pm. Although the industry has mostly adjusted to Jacobs’ latter-day obsession with punctuality, this still forced more than a few Hollywood names to break into a run to claim their front row seats. By 8.05pm, the show was over, such was the breakneck speed at which 45 models stomped down the runway, and Jacobs had taken his bow.
Anna Wintour, a keen tennis fan, was out of the building by 8.06pm, no doubt to get back to the final of the US Open, then in its final set. The rest of the audience were left on their padded benches, gawping at the now empty catwalk and trying to make sense of what they had just seen.
Putting the catwalk on fast-forward is a psychological trick invented by Christian Dior 65 years ago. One of Dior’s many innovations was to have catwalk models change walking style, swapping the traditional stately parade for a brisker stride. The effect was to make an audience who were used to taking notes at a languid pace sit up and concentrate: there is nothing like making people feel they might miss something, for getting their attention.
If Dior changed the walking pace from stately to brisk in the 40s, Jacobs is now experimenting with putting it on fast-forward. And it is an experiment of which we may not yet have seen the conclusion. Backstage after the show he commented cheerfully that “every season, I try and beat my speed record. My ideal is to have the show over before you’ve even sat down.”
Jacobs’ approach is both twisted, and perfectly logical. The scale of the fashion industry is such that any catwalk show for a major brand is a taster of what the collection as sold on the shopfloor will be, rather than an exhaustive menu. What matters is to convey a message, an image strong enough to sear into the retinas of the industry and ensure that brand has a voice in the fashion conversation for the season. And this show, for all the tripped-out energy, did just that.
“It’s brutal. Just sex appeal and strength, with no romance and no emotion,” was how Marc Jacobs described the collection. Thick deckchair stripes and all-over giraffe prints were stamped on to boxy dresses, coats and a new concept in skirt suits, aimed squarely at the brave: a cropped sweater with a matching A-line pleated skirt. Pointed-toe shoes and winged eyeliner added a Mod twist.
The collection began, Jacobs said, with a T-shirt dress to the floor, and a flat shoe. “We wanted a look that would accommodate a long, quick stride.” After last season’s eccentric, maximal, nostalgic show Jacobs and his team felt that the only way forward was to strip the aesthetic right back.
The first model wore a black-and-white striped T-shirt, with plain knickers, her hair powdered white and sprayed in a sweep over one eye. It was a look which seemed to reference both Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. Jacobs denied any 60s influence and claimed Sedgwick had been a reference only for make-up. This may or may not be the truth. Like I say, for Jacobs, fashion is a way to mess with your head.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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