We are back at the Park Avenue Armory for the first time in three years with Marc Jacobs, and tonight’s collection coincides with his choreographed February show at the Karole Armitage 2020 What is the difference. The show was so dynamic that it took up much of the Armory’s vast space, with models and professional dancers wearing beautiful, colorful pieces that displayed the efficiency of American sportswear, and the show was almost a requiem.
The huge room was dark and almost empty, save for a row of chairs and a spotlight illuminating the space in front of them. Solo violinist Jennifer Koh performed part of Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach”. Jacobs gave the collection a name — Heroes — and included a quote from Vivienne Westwood in his show notes that was more heartfelt than irreverent: “Fashion is life-enhancing, and I think it’s about doing it for other people. A lovely, generous thing.”
Westwood, who passed away on in December, posted a picture of this as she passed Jacobs A black and white photo of the legendary designer in his youth. In it, she wears her bleached blond hair brushed into spikes and wears a button-down shirt emblazoned with the words: “Speak Reason, Do Impossible.” At the time, Jacobs wrote, he was heartbroken, saying : “I continue to learn from your words and from all your extraordinary creations.”
Jacobs has many heroes: Yves Saint Laurent, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada. It’s a nod to the “Godmother of Punk,” from the tops of the models’ peroxide wigs to the bottoms of their platform shoes. You’ll recall that Naomi Campbell fell on her platform at Westwood’s fall1981 show. But Jacobs “learned” much more than that from the late designer.
Westwood Pirates circa “Bra” in which she twists T-shirt fabric into “nipples” reinterpreted as a casual knit Bodysuits and slit and ruched bodysuits. Here, the romantic silhouettes that Westwood took from Old Master paintings, with their linings and corsets, got baggy in military uniform, weighed down heavily on the frock pockets. Jacobs recreated her signature volume by turning blouses into skirts and tying the sleeves at the back, or had models wear jackets that were upside down, with hems that dramatically framed their faces. Several models walked by with their arms folded, imitating Westwood’s provocative audacity. By the way, turn those jackets right side up and you’re looking at some ace coats.
Long coats with quilted geometric panels may not be a direct lineage, but their DIY style echoes Westwood’s punk spirit. They’re special pieces, prized not because of the materials Jacobs uses—they actually look austere—but because of their extraordinary craftsmanship.
Tonight’s show pre-empts the official opening of New York Fashion Week Week by Day. In the pre-pandemic era, Jacobs was the big thing in New York. Since then, he has dropped out of the schedule, and the collections shown have only become more expressive—with odder shapes and layers. This time around, it was all of that, along with tonal crystals, crushed velvet in ruby and chartreuse, and giant polka dots. A touch of sadness, yes, but also life-enriching.