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Marc Jacobs will always be in his wonder years

Earlier this week, a post on the Marc Jacobs Instagram account showed Marc Jacobs the designer blowing out birthday candles in his office, celebrating his label turning 40 this year. There were so many candles that they created huge flames, billowing upwards and fanning outwards to the point where Jacobs grabbed his logo tote bag – an accessory that has become ubiquitous on city streets – and run out of the room. Was the fire real? Was it staged? Is everyone okay? It was hard to tell. Jacobs kind of resembled a little kid in the clip blowing furiously at the fire. It was a small reminder that so much of this man’s magic touch, both in terms of technique and branding, relies on his inherent sense of humour, his love of childlike play, and his outsized vision.

Cut to Friday night at the Park Avenue Armory where guests gathered in the dark waiting for Jacobs’ latest runway collection show to start. It was difficult to see people, but you could feel the anticipatory energy in the space. Jacobs has always been one of American fashion’s most prolific showmen. At the start of the runway was a giant folding table and chairs, which from far away in the unlit Armory looked like set props from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but was a sculpture by the late artist Robert Therrien.

marc jacobs fall 2024
Dan Lecca

The runway began to clear as everyone took their seats and at approximately two minutes past the hour of 6:00 PM, bright lights flashed on and illuminated everything and everyone. Some jolted a bit and others rubbed their eyes. Soft piano music played and the models, all wearing messy makeup and bouffants bigger than the egos of Truman Capote and his Swans, began to emerge from backstage and walk underneath and through the sculpture. They moved like stiff paper dolls, some with arms stuck straight in front or in back of them, and were dressed in clothes with exaggerated proportions made to look like they were stuck onto the bodies, unbendable and unbreakable even if you could see some of the seams and the pulled pleats.

marc jacobs fall 2024
Dan Lecca

It quickly became clear that Jacobs was not going to give us a walk down memory lane. This wasn’t about his greatest hits and it wasn’t about revisiting his design D.N.A. Well, maybe a little with the playing with proportionality and the attention to the sartorial banality of pieces like shorts and suit jackets. Really though, this was about perception, about wonder, as he titled the collection, and the ways in which our view of things evolve. As Jacobs wrote in his show notes: “By examining the memorable and the mundane, we abstract and exaggerate with a disorienting familiarity in our desire to express something naive and elegant.”

Many of the looks harkened back to the era of his childhood in the 1960s, like the four-pocket, three-quarter-length jackets, and skirt suit set, the flared sleeve gown with chunky paillettes that clicked when the models walked, and the check print pussy bow dress. There were oblong heeled-chunky Mary Janes and classic Marc Jacobs bags like the Venetia, rendered in gargantuan sizes. These were clothes that were plucked directly from the inside of Jacobs’ brain and watching them come down the runway was like looking into a small peephole and seeing a dressing-up box that he, at every stage of his life and career, has gone back to at one point or another. There was quirk and softness even if the dolls moved and were dressed like stick figures. It was one of Jacobs’ most emotional and self-assured moments throughout the last four decades. As expressed clearly through this collection, he will always have the ability to be a great, big fashion legend and a small curious, rebellious boy all at once.

marc jacobs fall 2024
Dan Lecca

During the last few years, Jacobs has seen great commercial success with his line Heaven and his aforementioned tote bags and other accessories. The runway collections, which are shown once a year off the fashion calendar (New York Fashion Week officially starts on 9 February) and only available through special order, are vehicles for Jacobs’ unfiltered creativity. These collections are what fulfil him and what keep his eyes wide open even when the years of his career-launching grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 1993 or his introduction of ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton in 1997 are far in the rearview mirror.

There was no show finale, but Jacobs did come out momentarily for a bow. It was almost too quick to register because as soon as he arose, the lights, just as they flashed on, went dark again. With this latest collection, Jacobs certainly wasn’t trying to extinguish any flame. He did what he always does: he left us full of delight, wondering what he’ll do next.

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