Marc Jacobs’s New Trend Is Elegiac

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It’s too bad that Marc Jacobs closes New York Fashion Week. His show yesterday at the Park Avenue Armory wasn’t necessarily the best on the spring 2018 bill, but it was the most moving. After nine sprawling days of shows, from Bushwick to Bedford, you were too demented to appreciate the utter beauty of it.

For the second season in a row, Jacobs had cleared the vast floor of the Armory. No set. Guest chairs were pushed to the walls, in a single line, so that the people on the opposite shore seemed very far away indeed. Then, without music, he had the models parade past the audience; and when they had completed a turn, they filed down the center into the front vestibule. Kaia Gerber was the show closer, and the only sound was the swish of her beaded canary-yellow gown and the flutter of photographers’ shutters.

Then, after a pause, the models marched back into the hall as a group and now you heard the most beautiful music: an aria from the Italian opera La Wally, which many people will know from the 1981 French movie Diva. It begins Ebben? Ne andrò lontana. “Well, then? I’ll go far away.”

If a designer were to take his leave from fashion, after 30 years — and there has been chatter that Jacobs wants to leave his company — this would certainly be a lovely, melancholic last act. Jacobs insisted it was not. “What? No!” he said, scowling backstage at the suggestion.

Jacobs, like Saint Laurent, has an incredible way of weaving touchstones of his career into his clothes and sending them back as love notes to his audience. The various turbans worn by the models (created by Stephen Jones) were inspired by Kate Moss’s silvery Jacobs outfit for the 2009 Met Gala. The perfectly arched brows and cat-eyes (by Diane Kendal) could have sprung from a hundred Harper’s Bazaar covers in the Vreeland era, another touchstone. According to the press notes, the collection was “the reimagining of seasons past somewhere beyond the urban landscape of New York City.”

In other words, the show contained a medley of Jacobsian shapes and themes, now cast in sunshine colors, so that a hipster hodgepodge of yellow nylon coat over a fat cowl-necked sweater, and turquoise beaded skirt with pom-pom slides and a fanny pack, surfaced as blissed-out Boca housewife. Piece by piece, the collection was a trove of novelty, from board pants and fresh-looking Turkish trousers in nylon to oversize pantsuits, minis in blown-up Pop-style patterns, and some lovely one-shoulder beaded floral dresses.

Photo: Imaxtree

As a collection, though, it was perhaps too close to the stereotype of an American lady, a Blanche duBois swallowed up by her clothes and her dreams, oblivious that she’s wearing fur and shower scuffs in the blazing sun while boys and girls in bathing suits sail past. That woman is something of a glorious, unreachable relic, rather like fashion itself so quickly becomes. Does a younger generation relate to Marc’s multilayered references? Perhaps not, and that may be the lament that tugged at the heart of this powerful collection.

The final days of the New York shows saw a spree of good-looking, relaxed American styles, from the camp shirts and gorgeous denim at Derek Lam to the tie-dye and palm prints at Michael Kors. Carolyn Murphy opened his collection in a carnation-pink tie-dyed cashmere sweatshirt with sandals. You get the idea: laid-back, flip-flop luxury.

For my money, the best take on that style came from a relative unknown: Bonnie Young. She actually spent 15 years at Donna Karan, eventually as creative director of collections. A year ago, she started her own high-end label BY, and this season was her strongest, with a long textured chiffon dress (in black or deep red) with a cotton drawstring to release or create volume, a simple long-sleeved dress in mocha cotton with a contrasting cord and pouch pockets, and oversize silk men’s shirts with sharp-looking track pants and ribbed pullovers. Young’s floral patterns (in rose, hydrangea blue) are fresh, and she has a good eye for keeping the oversize and the relaxed from running amok.

Photo: Courtesy of Bonnie Young
Marc Jacobs’s New Trend Is Elegiac