“We have art not to die of the truth.” Marc Jacobs quoted Nietzsche in his show notes. Confronted, as we are, with a rogue Supreme Court determined to strip women of their reproductive rights, with Clarence Thomas threatening to attack gay marriage next and even to make contraception illegal, fury may give way to despair. But that’s not where Jacobs is at.
Last month, when I spoke to him about his coming out story for a series on this website, he told me: “For many, many years—decades now—I’ve lived my life very openly. I learned somewhere along the way… that I’m only as sick as my secrets and that one thing I won’t live with is shame.” You could say that this collection was a visual expression of that sentiment, an insistence on experimentation, with a drive to move forward, shown on a cast of all genders. “Creativity is essential to living,” his statement read.
A year ago, double-vaxxed and optimistic, most of us were looking ahead to a brighter 2022. Last June, Jacobs channeled that energy into a dynamic collection, raising the fashion stakes here in New York in the process. That brighter future hasn’t really materialized, as we’re all too aware. Covid keeps coming back in successive waves, and here in America the will of the majority has been hijacked by the minority.
Nevertheless, Jacobs persists. Supersizing jeans and jean jackets, or treating denim to surface treatments that made the all-American classic look more like French couture. Adding so much stuffing to ribbed knit sweaters they could double as pillows. Toying with Gilded Age bustles—and by that I mean evoking them by wrapping jackets around the waist. And cutting ball gowns of exuberant volume in unexpected, even strange fabrics. His materials list included, but wasn’t limited to, foil, glass, paper, plaster, plastic, rubber, and vinyl.
Interspersed with that excess, however, there was spareness. Jacobs lowered the waistlines of column skirts and cropped flares to bumster levels and accessorized them with barely-there bejeweled bikinis or the sparest of bustier tops. A pair of suited looks in black weren’t quite minimal, but they came close, a reminder of his talents as a tailor. As for the three matching looks at the beginning of the show in gray, hospital green, and lavender—were they Jacobs’s version of scrubs? Given the recent moves by the Supreme Court, it was hard to think otherwise. Adding to the dystopian vibe: the models’ hairdos, which were “shaved” on the sides with bumper bangs in a style that called to mind Sean Young’s Blade Runner replicant.
And yet. All this was paraded out in the Public Library with opera gloves and sky-high white or black mary jane platforms. Dressed up in spite of the circumstances. Or maybe because of them? Definitely because of them. Marc Jacobs is a fighter, whose medium happens to be fashion. He’s gone 12 rounds and he’s still swinging. Knock-out stuff.