Marc Jacobs confronts the day that fashion died
Few American designers were physically closer to the tragedy of 9/11 than Marc Jacobs, who staged the last fashion show on a Monday evening in 2001 on a pier just north of the World Trade Center right before the cataclysmic events of the following Tuesday morning.
This Wednesday, in the Uptown Armory on Park Avenue, the designer addressed that disaster, with a call for cheerfulness and confidence in a show that was also an insider tutorial on fashion history.
“For my dear friend, David Rivers, and all the great friends I will never have the chance to meet, it has been eighteen years and a day we will never forget. This show, like that show is a celebration of life, joy, equality, individuality, optimism, happiness, indulgence, dreams and a future unwritten as we continue to learn from our past and the history of fashion,” explained Jacobs in his program – referencing an editorial director who was staging a conference in the World Trade Center’s Windows of the World rooftop restaurant as the first plane few into the New York towers.
The result was an uncanny selection of historical references from Kennedy Camelot-glamour and sixties rock goddesses to Doris Day naivety and Carnaby Street cool. Jacobs has sometimes been accused of a remodelling thrift shop finds, but all this season’s 55 looks, to his credit, had gone through the blender of his imagination.
Among the eclectic mix: giant tulle bubble gowns in violet and yellow Texas rose; My Fair Lady racecourse dresses; Saint Laurent-style power pants suits; Janis Joplin worthy floral velvet redingotes; mini riding jackets topped by ringmaster top hats; Park Avenue hostesses’ golden gowns and Jackie Browne lilac leather trench coats. Half the cast wearing cloches, cowboy hats, fedoras, bowlers or homburgs – mostly oversized.
Nostalgia ruled too, with the soundtrack, The Mamas & The Papas classic tale of yearning, Dream a Little Dream of Me.
A tour de force of fashion history and antiquity, which was also this collection’s weakness. It broke little new ground, and indeed came across as essentially retro. The further one read the program the more curmudgeonly it became; one second praising the “our natural mother boards, data centers and memory banks of our brains, from the genius of Karl.” The next dismissing “the transient archives of the Internet” and “the endless sea of digital influencers.”
Jacobs took his bow in a pair of giant Pinball Wizard eight-inch-high platform boots; his russet bouclé wool jacket referenced Chanel. Dancing, bowing, spreading hands to receive the applause of the assembled aficionados – all positioned on an array of white chairs at the eastern end of the giant armory.
Those of us that attended Jacobs' show back in 2001 remember it as a fantastically enthusiastic fete. The air of celebration intense, with hundreds dancing on the Hudson River’s Pier 54 well into the wee hours. A firefighter’s boat hired for the occasion spouting huge jets of water into the sky, just hours before so many firemen went to their death. The lights of the World Trade Center shining brightly to the south, as if they approved of this fashionable carnival.
Less than eight hours later, that mood was, in many ways, forever swept aside, by the single greatest terrorist attack in human history that would forever change the world in which we live.
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