In September 2007, Marc Jacobs made his guests wait two hours for his Spring 2008 runway collection to begin. The time on the invitation said 9pm, but the show didn’t start until after 11pm. People weren’t too pleased with the delay, and super-critic Suzy Menkes had some bad words to say about the whole thing. It left a sour taste in the mouths of many who were forced to put up with this diva-like behaviour. The general impression was that Jacobs, at this high point in his career, could get away with anything he liked and the New York fashion crowd would lap it up regardless. When his action was met with criticism from the fashion media, he threatened to pull out of New York and show exclusively in Paris instead. Guess what: it’s four years later and Marc Jacobs still runs NYC.
It’s impossible to arrive in New York without some cultural expectations and preconceived notions of the place. There is pizza everywhere. The commute to work will take almost an hour every morning, You will share your garden with some neighbourhood rats. If you attempt to have more than three people over to your apartment, somebody will complain about the noise. But one thing I hadn’t known to expect as a recent NYC transplant was this: everyone in New York is obsessed with Marc Jacobs. Everybody seems to have a little bit of Marc in their closets – a wallet, a purse, a pair of second-hand heels, a dress bought for graduation and now keeping pride of place in the closet. The result is that it’s near-impossible to separate his name from the abstract concept of ‘New York fashion’ overall. There are seven official Marc Jacobs stores in Manhattan, and countless more stores that will carry his lines. Jacobs puts out at least seven collections a year under his own name via the labels Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Marc Jacobs Men with a further six under his creative control at Louis Vuitton, too. That’s a lot of output for one man, and maybe it might explain why, from Williamsburg to the West Village, you can’t go anywhere without seeing some lovely young thing sporting a Miss Marc tee, or a handbag emblazoned with a loud and colourful print, or a cardigan with heart-shaped buttons with the name engraved within them, or a label-screaming monochrome MBMJ wallet. But why the city creams itself over absolutely anything with the label attached is another question altogether.
Because you can walk into almost any second-hand clothing store and find a pair of off-season MJ flats or a little printed MBMJ teadress selling for less than $100. There’s so much of it out there that it can’t even really be considered a signifier of fashion acumen or even prestige at this point. I am all for splurging on designer items of clothing you’ve been lusting after, especially if you believe they’re going to change your world entirely, but why bother grabbing a Marc Jacobs bag when there’s a serious risk you’ll turn the corner and see a 14-year-old schoolgirl toting the same one? The city is home to some of the greatest stores and labels and designers in the world, and yet we can’t wean ourselves off our Marc addiction. My theory is that we treat him as if he speaks for the city as a whole, across generations and social boundaries, with his tattoos and cigarettes and his addictions and neuroses and, at the end of it all, his eternal love of the party. If there was a Woody Allen of the fashion world – a neurotic and deeply unhappy NYC everyman who somehow makes his misery seem cool and fun – it’d be Marc. He takes the coolest bits of pop culture – Stephen Sprouse, Seattle grunge, Takeshi Murakami, Sonic Youth, Mickey Mouse – and makes them even cooler, using them as reference points for dresses that can retail for up to thousands of dollars. And all the coolest girls in town lap it up, right? His shows generally are the hottest seats in fashion week. Sofia Coppola and Leighton Meester and Tavi Gevinson are all front-row regulars. So that means it’s awesome, right? So we all want to buy anything at all that has the Marc Jacobs logo on it, anything at all with that little sans serif wide font on it, because if we buy it we’ll be awesome too. As a city we believe Marc Jacobs can make It Girls (and Boys) of us all.
Earlier this month, Jacobs won the CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for all his hard work over the past twenty years. This came after a few years of overwhelming catwalk success backgrounded by a personal life marked by addiction, heartbreak and floods of tabloid gossip. New York is still a city in love with the man and all he produces, though, even if it’s probably not him who’s labouring over every item in every outfit in an MBMJ collection at this point. We tear the man apart on gossip blogs and in newspapers, but when show season comes around he’s still on top of our wishlists and when it’s sample-sale time his stuff is what gets snapped up quickest. A Lifetime Achievement Award would suggest his reign as king of the city’s style might be almost over, but he promises he’s not done with us. By the looks of it, New York’s career-girls and fashion fans will have to stay in the man’s vice-like grip for the rest of all time. I am not sure I understand this local phenomenon just yet. But I think I’m going to swing by Bleecker Street this afternoon and spend all my rent money on a new tote bag or a bottle of Daisy or something else that might make me feel more at home here.