#SuzyNYFW: Marc Jacobs Exaggerates Eighties’ Extravagance

Shoulders were so wide that the models might have been wearing coat hangers under their clothes; bows so large and fancy they overtook the neckline; skirts so vast they looked like barrels of fabric; and colours were bright and vivid. It was all so obviously, crazily, deliriously back to the Eighties.

What was Marc Jacobs trying to say with this beautifully executed pastiche of haute couture? Those two words have been banded around for the last year, as American designers have moved to Paris to show during the high fashion season, while ‘Whither Couture?’ has been the subject of fashion’s chattering classes.

The Marc Jacobs show notes were listed under ‘Runway’. And that was another pastiche, as the catwalk had the models walk the full length of the vast and empty floor of the Park Avenue Armory down a narrow line between guests’ chairs. The glacial music of Philip Glass was the only sound, except for venomous shouts from anti-fur protestors outside, crying “Shame, shame, shame on you.”

Surely this must have been some sort of movie parody, which included silken geometric hairstyles by Guido Palau and rigid straw hats from Stephen Jones?

The irony was that it was Marc Jacobs’ whimsical, young girl look in the Nineties that swept away the bold, oversized Eighties wardrobe. Why would he want to resuscitate a historical period suited only to that time?

Since these days Jacobs never talks backstage after a brief appearance, there are no answers, although the front row presence of Sidney Toledano, newly appointed as brand overseer at LVMH, might have been a clue. With designer John Targon recently hired as ‘Creative Director of Contemporary’ for the more accessible Marc Jacobs line, the main designer needed to raise his game.

This was a defiantly brilliant collection, crazily beautiful as oversize coats in vivid pink, orange, and turquoise swept down the runway, an attached scarf whirled around the neck. When the outerwear came off, there were skirts and tops, some moderate in size and cut – if they had not been smothered by colourful furry jackets and oversize flowers unfurling at breasts and waists.

I kept getting flashbacks of Saint Laurent for cut and colour; Claude Montana for the precision; Thierry Mugler for exaggerated shaping; Emanuel Ungaro for defiant prettiness; but most of all of Saint Laurent in full bloom.

Will it sell? Surely not as presented. Yet Jacobs produced some sumptuous clothes, especially when the gilded grandeur was applied to a sweater and gleaming skirt. A lot of the clothes were eminently wearable. It was the context that made the show seem like a parody.

So where will Marc go from here? With America’s super-rich being offered a tax cut by President Trump, is it back to the Eighties? Or was the show a sumptuous spectacle to whet the appetite for the wider Marc Jacobs brand? That, after all, is how haute couture has worked for some of the biggest houses. But without the designer revealing his cards, who knows how the game will play out?