Taking his show - the first since his brand merged with his diffusion line Marc by Marc Jacobs - from the Park Avenue Armory to the historic Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th Street was actually a perfect strategic move, a way to hint in style at the main themes of the Spring/Summer 2016 collection.
Featuring famous models including Adriana Lima, Joan Smalls, Irina Shayk, Alek Wek, Catherine McNeil, Guinevere van Seenus, and Karen Elson, but also celebrities such as singer Beth Ditto, the show didn't certainly look like your conventional runway, but was a sort of Hollywood extravaganza.
Models got out of the stage door and walked down a red carpet outside the theatre under a marquee loudly announcing "One Night Only: Marc Jacobs".
Excited fans and onlookers took pictures, models briefly stopped in front of a Marc Jacobs step-and-repeat backdrop to offer more photo opportunities and then reached the main room where guests were seated and where Brian Newman led the 20-piece swing band on stage through a rendition of the New York Dolls's "Trash".
In the meantime, the cinematic spirit spread around thanks to ushers in waistcoats handing out drinks, candies, popcorn and a Playbill for every guest with a Marc Jacobs quiz inside.
Fashion-wise the collection was a quintessential representation of American culture and cinema and a love letter to New York: there were hints to Adrian's costumes and in particular to the wardrobes he created for the main characters in George Cukor's The Women (a constant reference throughout Jacobs' career) in the sweaters with a sequinned bow (that called to mind Elsa Schiaparelli's more famous trompe l'oeil tops), matched with long sequinned siren skirts or with checked shirts for a grunge twist.
Shoulder lines were at times borrowed from the '40s and Joan Crawford; sailor suits then introduced a nautical theme that Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers sported so well in Mark Sandrich's Follow the Fleet.
Embroideries of sirens, or of motifs linked to the cinema (3D paper glasses) on sharp and short jackets evoked memories of Schiaparelli's surreal designs from the late '30s-early '40s. Cascades of sequins called to mind Bob Mackie's glamour, but there were hints at the grand style of Orry Kelly here and there as well.
An electric blue sweater with a high school band-like harp emblem on the front, matched with a glittering red, white, and blue slit skirt could have been a reference to Grease if it hadn't been followed by an orgy of stars and stripes, American flag bras and star spangled handbags that brought on the runways the ghost of William Klein's 1968 satire Mr Freedom.
High culture appeared in a picture of opera legend Maria Callas in a 1958 representation of Medea, transformed into a repetitive pattern and replicated on a skirt suit, a long skirt and an opera coat, her face mixed with that of Janet Leigh in Psycho and replicated in a style borrowed from Andy Warhol's Pop Art silkscreens. The final effect was actually very reminiscent of Versace's iconic Pop Art gown from his S/S 1991 collection.
Pop Art was also indirectly evoked in the playful intarsia knits with patterns of cameras, popcorn, drinks, director's clapper boards and 3D paper glasses. The power of 3D films was celebrated in denims and dresses with a print of the infamous 1952 picture of cinema goers at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood wearing 3D glasses.
The photograph was taken by J.R. Eyerman at the première screening of Arch Oboler's film Bwana Devil, the first full-length colour 3D "Natural Vision" motion picture.
There was a lot to process and grasp in this collection that could be considered as a sort of summarised version of a fashion glossary with all the main staples of the sporty American wardrobe - tank tops, plaid skirts, varsity jackets, checked shirts, denim jackets covered in pins and badges (some of them embroidered with Dorothy's red shoes...), baseball jackets and cowboy boots - turned into luxury pieces covered in intricate embroideries or appliqued motifs such as the one reproducing a flaming sacred heart.
There was a lot to process, consume and be consumed by on many levels: at times it looked as if Auntie Mame had dragged Jacobs to one of her endless parties to meet all her friends and he had come back home with a severe headache and a terrible hungover, but full or inspirations.
Or maybe, rather than following Auntie Mame in a fantasy journey on the silver screen, Jacobs just watched again Mark Sandrich's Holiday Inn and tried to come up with a series of garments for all sorts of occasions (the black and white swans integrated in some of the looks in Jacobs' collection evoking the swans costume in the film).
Spectacularly grand and infused with a light and fun mood that had started lacking in Marc Jacobs' Parisian catwalks for Louis Vuitton, the show had an interesting architectural reference in the location: the baroque Ziegfeld with its red velvet walls and chandeliers is indeed the largest surviving single-screen theatre in Manhattan.
This giant and exuberant spectacle will undoubtedly enter fashion history, but the interesting thing is to read between its lines, and try and dissect between quantity and quality.
As proved by the references and links between films, costumes, actresses and Pop Art in this collection, Jacobs firmly remains in the category of the "DJ designer" - he is indeed a sampler à la Miuccia Prada rather than a proper dressmaker or tailor. Impresario Diaghilev used to describe himself as a charmer, a patron of the arts and a charlatan, and Jacobs is more or less the same.
Though he may be a man with a vision, Jacobs is never far from the trash and the kitsch: he probably picked Maria Callas and included her picture in the collection not because he is an opera fan, but probably because he stumbled upon this picture while surfing the Internet (it's not difficult to find online the same low quality image that he replicated on his garments).
Yet despite all these references to films and timeless icons, it was Eyerman's picture that contributed to give the collection its final meaning. Replicated on shirts, totes and badges sold all over the world, this photograph has quite often been used to symbolise the alienation of consumer culture.
This event may be interpreted as a vision for the future of the Marc Jacobs brand, but, digging behind the sequins, the cinematic moods and the fantastic glamour, it remains part of a major fashion week led by an industry that, running fast and faster, is highly risking of alienating a lot of consumers.
Catwalks such as this one may be grand shows, but once the models are gone and the lights are off, if you get really silent you can hear the ghost of Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond taking her delusional descent down the stairs in Sunset Boulevard, promising in her hallucinated tone: "...after Salome we'll make another picture and another picture! You see, this is my life. It always will be! There's nothing else - just us - and the cameras - and those wonderful people out there in the dark." Completely insane and firmly convinced of her indestructibility, Desmond goes towards her tragic end in a glamorous way. Somehow, you feel the same may be be happening to the fashion industry, even though not many of us have realised it or simply don't want to admit it.
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