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What women wear

Ever-busy, bold and self-confident designer Marc Jacobs tells ALISTAIR TAN a grandmother story or two.

Marc Jacobs is not someone expected to have time for grandmother stories. The designer leads a high-adrenalin lifestyle, rushing between collections and cities, that doesn’t even allow time for a regular de-stress routine like yoga or gym.




Designer Marc Jacobs with Malaysian star Tiara Jacquelina at Louis Vuitton's post-show party.
But, surprisingly, the creative director of Louis Vuitton has one of his own to tell. Literally.


Rachel wears blouson with pink Oxford bags, matched with vinyl bag.
“My grandmother was old school, she would never wear a label exposed,’’ says the boyish-looking 40something.

The old lady was against the idea of Vuitton as a handbag because, to her, it was luggage.

“I always listened to grandma.’’ After all, she brought him up. “She was very snobby that way.’’ But, he cheerily adds, “she wouldn’t do very well in today’s world.’’

An enduring virtue he learnt from her was a respect for quality.

“I enjoyed shopping with her, she’d indulge me with good things,’’ he recalls. Grandma believed that, instead of six cheap sweaters, it was better to have one (she let the boy choose) and maintain it well.

From his mother, he saw the tacky side of fashion. “She had really bad taste. Well, good bad taste.’’ He keeps his tone light. But there is a sense of unfinished business between him and Mrs Jacobs.

“She’d would wear a pink fur coat, false eyelashes. It was like Jane Fonda in Klute.’’

Despite a late night on the town, Jacobs’s intense eyes are alert, yet ancient, like an artist who has lived many lifetimes. He lowers his gaze when the question of criticism, and his ability to handle it, is raised.

“Certain things upset me, but I get over (them) quickly,’’ he says, evenly. “The only opinion that matters is my own.”

Fresh on some minds was the public spat between the designer’s camp and the influential New York Times.

In an unprecedented move – even by the standards of the snipe-y fashion world – its fashion critic Cathy Horyn led off a story by accusing Jacobs of imitating her Ferragamo handbag design. (The designer fired a returning volley in a trade paper. Horyn later retracted her statement.)

“I have an aversion to people who get it wrong,’’ he says. “I find it stimulating to be around people with ideas (that) make things happen, in film, art, literature.’’




Ekaterina in Sprouse’s leopard print blouse and Annie Hallstyle coat and Oxford bags, topped with bucket hat.
Growing up in New York, he has channelled creative energy from his environment since he was nine. “I was conscious of the way my babysitter dressed, her boyfriend. Other boys were playing baseball and buying records, I was going to clubs. What attracted me was the way the kids looked, spiky hair, crazy leopard skin print.’’

In his own college rebel phase, Jacobs probably went through more image changes than Madonna.

“I was experimenting with looks in those four years. I had all sorts – New Romantic, glam rock, tribal. Then I met Kansai Yamamoto and had a Japanese New Wave moment.’’

The designer – who enters his first decade with the brand next year – has matured into a sanguine company man, driving Vuitton’s bottom line with a bag of ideas every season.

“I look at my role, I am not it, it’s not my name on the door,’’ he ventures. “I think when I was asked to come to LV, it was very clear that it was a huge, successful company with tons of customers.

“It was interesting to Mr Arnault for someone to bring an eye to things.’’



He oversees experienced design teams on both sides of the Atlantic, for his French patron and his own label.

“When I can sort of give my time, I do,’’ he says. “I never really stop working, to think about it. So much of my social life has to do with work.’’

Nine to eight would be an average working day for the designer who describes relaxation routines as a full-time job. (“Where would I find time to work?’’)

“A week before the show, it’s 24 hours, all night long. After that, I have a day, or a few days, off,’’ he says. “There could be a bag or shoe edit meeting. Before I came to Tokyo, I was doing looks for Marc Jacobs Resort.”

He may not have time of his own to relax. But Marc Jacobs has time to consider what women will wear when they do.


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