Runway News

Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis: Marc Jacobs

Last night, Marc Jacobs sat down, wearing a casual suit and sneakers, with Fern Mallis at the 92Y in New York City to talk about his life and career. Here are some highlights from the interview which began with Jacobs saying that the opening retrospective montage made him tear up.

  • Marc Jacobs was born in New York City as Marc Jacobs — contrary to what Wikipedia says. Nice to know Mallis uses Wikipedia too!
  • Jacobs "plans to be in a bathing suit on the beach somewhere" for his 50th birthday in four months and does not put much emphasis on astrology.
  • Marc Jacobs' father, who was a talent agent at William Morris, died at the age of 32 of cancer when Jacobs was 7. He hasn't had contact with his siblings in years.
  • As a teenager, Jacobs moved in with his grandmother who was very into fashion and taught him how to knit and needlepoint.
  • Studio 54 taught Jacobs about "decadence," "unhealthy curiosity," and "anonymous sex."
  • "There's nothing I don't love about Paris." After his first trip, Jacobs cried because he felt that he was meant to live there. He now spends about six months a year there.
  • Jacobs went to Parsons at the suggestion of Perry Ellis where he and Tracy Reese were "inseparable." He graduated in 1984 as the designer of the year.
  • The designer has 33 tattoos, most of which were done by a tattoo artist named Steve Campbell. His favorite tattoo is of a couch — for no particular reason. He loves colorful tattoos and his next one will likely be a South Park character.
  • The death of dogs affects him more than people. "My therapist might be able to tell you more about that." His grandmother's death in 1987, however, was a major loss for him.
  • In his time at Perry Ellis, he hired Tracy Reese and Tom Ford. He notes that Ford was always "sophisticated."
  • At 25, he was the youngest to win the Perry Ellis CFDA Award for his work at Perry Ellis. Shortly thereafter, he and Robert Duffy were both fired. Jacobs wasn't surprised because it didn't make financial sense to keep them on; despite the critical success of his grunge collection, it had little commercial success.
  • Anna Wintour was a big supporter of Marc Jacobs early on. She started at Vogue around the time he started at Perry Ellis.
  • LVMH has over 90% stake in Marc Jacobs and they appointed him as the first creative director for Louis Vuitton men's and women's collections.
  • The French did not have a positive reaction to Jacobs' appointment initially and there was "a lot of backstabbing […] but those people who were not for me have moved on to other places."
  • His first collection was about hidden luxury. "That's not what people wanted. They wanted monogram. What makes it universally popular is that it's recognizable."
  • Marcel Duchamp's Mona Lisa parody "LHOOQ" was the inspiration behind the LV graffiti bag, which led to a slew of collaborations with various artists.
  • Marc Jacobs is an avid art collector and owns works from, among others, Andy Warhol and Richard Prince.
  • Fern asks Jacobs about 1996 and his intervention: "Business couldn't be higher and so couldn't you."
  • Marc Jacobs approached Bernard Arnault and told him that he needed to take time off to check into rehab.
  • "I'm mostly sober. I'm not perfect."
  • The designer has so many fragrances he doesn't even know how many.
  • Daisy, the best-selling Marc Jacobs fragrance, was named for the designer's dog, who was named for the character Daisy Buchanan.
  • Louis Vuitton doesn't sell to duty-free shops, which is the major reason LV does not yet have a fragrance (since the category is all about getting into a lot of doors). That said, "One is in the works."
  • The designer used to throw legendary costume holiday parties. He dressed up in elaborate costumes including a ketchup bottle and a camel toe, both of which required being transported to the venue in a flatbed truck.
  • "If you want to show me 50,000 swatches of Duchess satin, I pay attention. But if a lawyer starts taking…"
  • "Cigarettes are my big vice." Jacobs has never gone longer than seven months without one.
  • A health scare that entailed possibly needing to remove his colon made Jacobs undertake a lifestyle overhaul. He went to see a nutritionist who told him he needed to sweat every day, laugh every day, drink a lot of juices, and make major changes to his diet. "I couldn't even have sugar from fruit. It's worth it; I mean, I have my colon."
  • "Everyone looks great at David Barton. There are a lot of good looking people there." Jacobs exercices two hours a day five to six days a week between 9 and 10 a.m. 
  • "I crave pasta and pizza all the time."
  • Taking care of his appearance, the designer says, made him better to himself and others. "I like to buy lace, skirts, and furs from Prada and all sorts of other things."
  • "I love attention," says Jacobs when asked about being on Page Six. "Maybe my desire for attention is a little out of control."
  • Lorenzo Martone was the one who proposed to Jacobs and was also the one who broke off the engagement. Jacobs insists, however, that they are still best friends.
  • When asked which designers he admires, he singles out Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo.
  • After Galliano was fired from Dior, there was a big discussion about Jacobs going to Dior. "I think it would be a difficult place to work. I was flattered, but I really wanted to stay with my team. My psychiatrist asked me how this is going to improve my life and I said, 'It's not.'" He insists that while it was very flattering, it was months of psychodrama and it was mutually agreed upon that Jacobs is better suited to Vuitton.
  • Marc Jacobs is not into social media, though he has an iPhone. "Emailing is not so good for me; people text me, I answer."
  • "I look over my shoulder and always think someone is doing it better. It's not 24/7; it's a lot better than it used to be."
  • "I don't give advice. But I can share my experience."

image: 92Y

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