It is not everyday that a person gets to sit down with one of their favorite fashion designers and listen to them speak about their life, professionally and personally! Only in our wildest dreams does one think of this, especially when it surrounds the idea of the legendary Marc Jacobs! Well, thanks to the remarkable Fern Mallis and the 92nd Street Y, on Wednesday, December 9th. 2013 my wildest dreams did come true! I had my chance to sit in on a living-room-like interview with Fern & Marc that felt more like question and answer family hour just shooting the breeze – at the 92Y!
Sitting in the theater waiting for the symposium to begin, I couldn’t believe that Marc was only so many feet away from me, back stage! I was a bit nervous, to be honest and I am not one to become star struck or outwardly go crazy when I see someone who I admire greatly, but, all I could think in an anxious tone was…is this really happening…am I really here!?
The lights went down and Fern Mallis entered the stage welcoming the sold out crowd of 100+ guests that filled the theater. She herself, admitted ” Even I’m a bit nervous about tonight’s conversation.”, smiling indicating only in the best of ways. I mean, it is Marc Jacobs after all! Fern began to explain how when she was approached to do “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis” how the first name in fashion she wanted to invite to interview was Mr. Jacobs. In its second series she was finally able to land Marc, 1.5 years later. His interview originally scheduled in the beginning of November was postponed until now, because of hurricane Sandy! Better late than, NEVER!! Mallis is a great admirer of Marc Jacobs and equally a fan of his incredible talent. She mentioned how, when she was Vice President of IMG Fashion, Marc’s runway slot had to be booked first each season. The Fashion Week schedule basically revolved around when and where Marc was showing his collection, even when some years she was neglected a ticket – making his fashion shows every season “the hottest ticket in town!”
Before Marc was introduced, a short video highlighting his career from early 90’s to the most recent work was shown. As I widely eyed watched the video I happily remembered so many iconic looks and collections that I had no idea were Marc’s. For many of them I was only a 7-9 year old! It brought back tons of great memories!
When Marc finally entered the stage the crowd roared. He quickly took his seat and greeted the audience as if we were all his long time friends, not holding back whatsoever. I found this to be so darling and refreshing. This characteristic made my love of his craft grow more powerful into a more deep appreciation for him as a person. The mood stayed this way throughout the entire conversation, including when Fern delicately flowed the conversation towards the topic of his addiction problem with drugs and alcohol! Marc humbly exclaimed “It’s not like it’s a secret Fern, duh! (Laughs) Let’s discuss it, I’m open!” But we’ll get to that later on. For me, a very tender and humorous part of the conversation was how he name dropped all of his doctors, lawyers, tattoo artist, and therapist as if he was suggesting us to use them for our own personal needs; including fashion industry notables. Fern even said, “Take notes on this guys, these are great references is case you ever need any one of these people!” I mean, hey…ya never know right? Right! Who know, I may need a therapist one day, why not go to Marc’s? (Haha)
This conversation set went on for almost two hours, leaving every topic untouched. So for the remainder of this post I will categorize what was spoken about! Okay here goes!!!!
FAMILY LIFE & GROWING UP: Marc Jacobs was born in April of 1963. Before Marc’s father’s passing in 1968, his father worked as an agent at the esteemed William Morris Agency. He was loved and well respected by many of Hollywood’s elite. Marc’s mother also worked as a receptionist at WMA which is how his parents met. His uncle (mother’s brother) also became one of the top executives of WMA! Marc does have siblings a younger brother and sister, however, they lost touch many years ago. ” I haven’t spoken to my brother and sister in many, many years. We had a lot of differences that we unfortunately couldn’t work past! We just didn’t get along!” He grew up in Los Angeles, Huntignton, New York and Teaneck, New Jersey.
HIS EARLY APPRECIATION FOR FASHION: His grandmother, being a woman who was very stylish and loved to dress up “she changed her handbag to match her outfits”, was very meticulous on where and how her wardrobe was organized. “She had a strategic place for everything, a place for her spring shoes, and winter shoes, perfume, etc! “As a kid she was someone who had me move her spring shoes to the top of the closet and the fall shoes to the bottom of the closet.” Marc continued to explain how his grandmother had a reason and rhyme for where everything was placed, and also where everything was purchased from, Bloomingdales, Barney’s, Neimans, etc. As Marc grew older, he explained how his grandmother always believed he was going to be the next big name in fashion, never doubting it for a reason. “My grandmother was an amazing woman in my life. She believed in me 100% and was very supportive. She would go to the supermarket, butcher counter or anywhere else and tell everyone she saw; “My grandson is going to be the next Calvin Klein! “And, I mean I would become very uncomfortable about that, dying of embarrassment, wanting to run the other direction (laughs)!”
HIS FIRST TASTE OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY: As a teen Marc worked as a stock boy at famed NYC boutique Charivari, which entered his toe in the door of the fashion industry. “I was folding shirts, taking clothes once they’d been pinned by the tailor down to get alteration tickets, taking tissue paper to the register,” Not the most glamorous of jobs but Marc’s thirst for being a part of the industry was endless. While working at Charivari is where Marc was introduced to designer Perry Ellis. Marc had already been a major fan of Mr. Ellis for his presence as one of the “7th avenue design scene” represented a more European aesthetic, although the Perry Ellis brand is completely American. It was at the store that he met Perry Ellis. “I had already been a huge fan of Perry. He stood out in what was the 7th Avenue design scene. He was this representative that felt more European to me. “He had the kind of whimsy, spirit and exaggeration of proportion that we would see more with European designers. They were fantasy clothes.” It was Perry who told Marc that if he was serious about design that he should attend Parsons New School of Design!
PARIS J’TAIME: When Marc was in high school he found out about a summer trip to Paris through Parsons. “I had this idea in my head that I had to go to Paris by a certain age, there was no way around it! I had to go! So I took out a loan and sent in my application! this was a trip that anyone who wanted to study in paris could go on, from me to a housewife!” Marc loved being in Paris greatly and absolutely fell in love with the city of lights! Most of his time there was spent in museums which wasn’t very ideal for the young designer who wanted to explore the city for all it was worth. But to his excitement, at the trips conclusion the tour group had the opportunity to meet with one of the top French designers. On his tour he visited the Yves Saint Laurent atelier and listened to designer Sonia Rykiel speak. This program stretched the length of four weeks, however Marc’s time in Paris exceeded this. He had to stay longer and get a real taste of the city. “I didn’t want to come home, I literally cried on on the plain during my flight home! I fell in love!” Marc expressed; ” I envy everyone who takes their first trip to pairs! I wish I could be with them to see and feel their reaction of just being in the city for the first time! Every time I visit the city which is six months out of the year, There is not one morning that I go to work or one night that I come home where I don’t pass the Place de la Concorde or see the Eiffel Tower sparkling with electric lights. It’s just so magical!”
PARSONS HERE I COME: Listening to the advice of his fashion idol Perry Ellis, Marc applied and was accepted to Parsons where he formed his very own group of friends who are now mostly fashion industry notables. One in particular is fashion designer Tracy Reese. Together they considered themselves overachievers going over and beyond the work required of them by their professors. He also befriended fellow student Issac Mizrahi. Marc was awarded as student designer of the year upon graduation in 1984. At the ceremony is where he was first introduced to Robert Duffy who has remained his close friend and business partner till this very day. “Robert is the longest relationship I’ve had with any human being, and we’re not lovers nor have we ever been. We’ve never even kissed on the lips—not on purpose, anyway.” During his time in college, however Marc would frequent Famed disco Studio54. He explained how he would take his books with him on Thursday nits so he would make it to his early morning classes on Friday. “It taught me a lot of things, like how to behave in a decadent fashion. It gave me an unhealthy curiosity about substances and anonymous sex. I wasn’t the only one having anonymous sex, by the way. I think one of your previous speakers was there at the same time.”
LIFE AFTER COLLEGE: At the age of 25 Marc became the designer for Perry Ellis. “I remember the first day I showed up on my motorcycle. They said, “The deliveries are around back.” I said, “No, I’m the designer here!” They were all a bit shocked, Jacobs explained. He also felt proud and excited to be working under his idols label.
CFDA & HEROIN CHIC: In 1998 Jacobs won the CFDA rising star award for his outstanding work as a new designer. Marc was responsible for the new grunge and heroin chic fashions that were gracing the covers of all the hottest magazines mostly worn by Kate Moss. “It was a real and different movement; perfectly imperfect, the whole f*** off thing. Oribé did the hair and Kevyn Aucoin did the makeup.” Each of these artists were a bit baffled when they really didn’t do anything to the models hair or makeup. It was extremely minimal and raw. Even though he was fired from Perry Ellis, it was the most successful collection under the the PE brand to date.
BEING LOUIS: Marc was brought in to Louis Vuitton to design apparel for the iconic brand. He explained how the French company wanted help redefine the brand for a new generation. When Fern asked Marc how LVMH liked his ideas for the new collection he stated “Well, the French don’t really like anything. I’m being sarcastic. Not really. I don’t know if I won them all over, but I definitely won because none of them are still there. I’m not a bitch, but things happen.” He also mentioned how he saved Victoria Beckham’s image. “She was on the cover of an English newspaper with a counterfeit LV bag. That’s how I met her. I sent her a real one.”
ADMITTING ADDICTION: Unfortunately Marc suffered from substance and alcohol abuse while at Louis Vuitton. It was together that Jacobs and Duffy presented this problem to LVMH, what was going on and that he needed help. “I went away for a month, more than once. I needed help and admitted it. That was the first step!” He is now sober but claims that he is not perfect and will occasionally have a glass of wine, or drink, maybe even a joint from time to time, but knows and the enough control to limit himself. In Jacobs’ exact words; “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent sober. I’m not perfect. Yeah, I’ve had a glass of wine, and maybe a couple of whiskeys. Maybe I’ve smoked a joint, or other things. But I’m mostly sober.” He never wants to go back to the dark place he was before going into rehab. Using his creativity to help overcome his addiction, he used the knitting, crocheting and needle point lessons taught to him by his beloved grandmother. “Needlepoint came in handy when I tried to stop smoking. I made a couple cushions—one for my partner, Robert Duffy. He got my first needlepoint cushion. It was called Pansy, the cow.”
MJ’s PHILOSOPHY: “I’m perfect, being in an imperfect world where everything benefits me completely. It’s something I learned in rehab. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not the Dalai Lama. I’m not the most enlightened, spiritual human being. When Sandy happened, believe me, I didn’t think it was perfect.”
TATTOOS: Marc has 33 tattoos! his favorite tattoo is; a Jean Michel Frank couch, which is tattooed right here (pointing to the lower left side of his stomach).” When asked, why a couch! He replied; “I don’t know! There’s no reason; that’s exactly the reason! I was actually just talking with my trainer about this!” If you want a tattoo he recommends you visit Scott Campbell “He’s a great artist and a sweetheart.” Fern asked marc why all the cartoon character tattoos such as Sponge Bob, M&M’s, Disney, he replied; “Kids on the beach love them!! (Laughs) I find myself thinking I’m a 15 year old at times!” Mark wants his next tattoo to be South Park’s ManBearPig! (More laughs from Marc and the audience)
THE FAMOUS COSTUME SOIREE: Although these parties are sadly no longer happening, every year Marc wanted to make it more complicated to the point where the last one he had to rent a flat bed truck to arrive to his party. One year he even had to have his costume assembled at the Rainbow Room because it would not fit through the revolving doors! What is this costume you ask? Well it was a camel toe! “Everyone wants to take pictures with me so it was great because there was a stool inside the costume, so I could just sit there while everyone took pictures with me. I didn’t get to dance but…Fern Mallis replied; “Well, I don’t think camel toes dance a lot.” (Laughs)
HIS BUCKET LIST:“Have more sex, eat more food, have better relationships…see more art & make more art and get a manicure more often”
DOES MARC STILL CARE ABOUT THE CRITICS?:
ABSOLUTELY!!! He loves constructive criticism but hates stupidity. for instance, if you were hungry or really tired, or annoyed that his show ran late when reviewing his collection and made remarks based on your sower mood, well to mark that’s being stupid. however, if they are smart critiques, he loves learning from them and taking it with him for is later work.
ADVICE: “I don’t really give advice – but what I will say is always be passionate, never give up and love what you do!” “When I don’t believe in myself, I turn to those who do!”
What an amazing journey Mark has been on. It was a lot of hard work, with many struggles, but with it all came wondrous victories, personally and in business. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen to this one-on-one talk between Fern Mallis and Marc Jacobs. As an aspiring fashion designer, this event was so inspiring and made my never ending drive to succeed in this epically cut-throat industry all the more fiery; with a tear in my eye as he took his bow, as he received a standing ovation.
But the best part of the evening was having the very quick chance to speak with Marc and have our picture taken! Even though it came out very blurry, I will treasure it forever!
AND NOW THE COMMENTS!!
Interview photos by: Joyce Culver