If you’ve ever attended an art fair at the Park Avenue Armory, you know how sprawling the space is. Now imagine it empty, except for two rows of folding chairs facing each other down the center of the wood floor. In between was Marc Jacobs’s fall runway. No set. No photographers. No sound technicians, for indeed there was no music. It made me think of the times Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons had staged silent shows on a bare plywood stage — only amplified by the enormous space, just as a person feels when walking in New York.
In his show notes, Jacobs specifically cited two inspirations: the recent documentary Hip-Hop Evolution and the photography of Joel Meyerowitz. Both influences were apparent, though the New York of the ’70s and early ’80s is probably never far from Jacobs’s mind. What was so striking about the collection, and of course the stillness in which it was presented — the title of the show was Respect — was that it boiled down a contemporary look to its essence. At the same time it connected that look to the New York of memory, immortalized not only by Meyerowitz but also Garry Winogrand. I doubt that connection could have been made if Jacobs had created a set, added music. It depended on that empty space and on one’s imagination, and to a degree on certain cues from the clothes. At a time when fashion companies are so fearful that you might not “get” it or that their Instagram feed is not loaded with images, Jacobs’s concept seemed pretty ingenious.
Central to the collection were coats — the urban dweller’s main statement piece. These were predominantly in vintage shades of brown and deep-red, in tweeds and checks, in plush fabrics. There were also some fantastic denim jackets with rough fleece, which Jacobs paired with denim trousers or minidresses in silk prints or knits. The choice was generally a minidress or polished track pants (or jeans), although there were a few knit pullovers and track jackets in lieu of a coat.
More than in recent Jacobs shows, the accessories really rounded things out — the chunky gold pendants, the antique-brown platform loafers, the domed hats, as well as spangled knit caps (by milliner Stephen Jones), and the flat, metal-framed purses that dangled on neck chains. They looked fresh.
At the end of the show, to the surprise of guests, the main doors on Park Avenue opened, revealing a second mini “show” — on the sidewalk, with music pumped through speakers, as the models came down the front steps and pedestrians watched from the barricades. It amazes me not that Jacobs can find ways to incorporate the city into his shows — he did this at the Ziegfeld Theatre about a year ago — but that he can do so in such a natural manner. Respect indeed.