Marc Jacobs has been in the news a lot lately. Some of that press has been promising – interesting new prospects with Carine Roitfeld may be on the horizon – though other developments in his camp have been less optimistic. After seeming like a shoe-in for John Galliano’s successor, chances of him taking over the Dior empire are now increasingly slim; he’s also had ads for his Dakota Fanning-fronted fragrance “Lola” banned in the U.K., and now, sadly, a strange Spring 2012 collection theft to grapple with.
The fact that he’s in the headlines at all is a testament to his ongoing role as America’s most powerful designer. And it would be remiss to think that anything less than a significant portion of his cultural impact also has been tied to music. Jacobs has been at its forefront for the past twenty years, with some of its biggest milestones – grunge, Madonna, Lady Gaga – having near and dear context to the designer and his body of work.
This past Fashion Week, Rolling Stone spoke to Debbie Harry about Blondie’s memorabilia pop-up shop in Marc Jacobs’ West Village boutique. But she’s only one of Jacobs’ many musical friends. Since the mid 90s, he’s created some truly memorable moments in style and sound fusion, five of the most potent we honor below.
1. Marc Jacobs Rocks Perry Ellis: The Moment Grunge Became High Fashion, September 1992
At the time, the fashion industry regarded this experimental collection’s inability to set fire at retail as a noble failure on Jacobs’ part, leading to his firing as design director for Perry Ellis. But in hindsight, his Spring 1993 “Grunge” collection for the label was a watershed moment for the synthesis of music and fashion, and the genesis of the “classic deconstructionist” design ideal that would go on to define his own eponymous brand, founded soon after.
Jacobs explains he was driven primarily by music in those formative years, telling Index: “That was a time when I did love music, I couldn’t get enough of what was going on. Maybe it was Nirvana that brought me back.” His friend Anna Sui, also channeling a similar storm in her punk-tinged design work at the time, agrees, telling Rolling Stone in September that she and Marc attended numerous grunge shows together and reveled in its spirit. Witness Marc’s polemic grunge collection in its original lo-fi runway glory here (via equally lo-fi archived footage). Or, preferably, experience the entire collection in its intended musical context through Jacobs’ eternal pals, Sonic Youth, in their video for “Sugar Kane”:
2. Lady Gaga Performs at Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2010 Afterparty, September 2009
Jacobs has a way of both defining trends and tapping into separate phenomena as they’re about to “lift off.” Such was the case with him choosing Lady Gaga as the star entertainer of his epic Spring 2010 afterparty in September 2009. The burgeoning pop icon had spent the summer proving her artistic prowess to chart watchers and catwalk hawks alike, and by the turn of autumn, both the music and fashion communities were enraptured with her strangeness. Did we call her an entertainer? More like a supernova. Here’s her memorable Elton John-worthy piano take on “Poker Face”:
3. Madonna Models for Louis Vuitton Under Jacobs’ Creative Direction, 2009
The same year Jacobs courted Gaga, he employed the Original Queen of Pop for a two-season flashy campaign for Louis Vuitton that ultimately raised questions about the prevalence of Photoshop in fashion shoots. But Vuitton’s wheelhouse is inventive decadence, and in these particular ads, it was obvious Madge and Jacobs as a unit were out to create a libertine and slightly surreal fantasia, something worthy of album cover art. And since when has that legacy ever been anchored by earthly limits?
4. M.I.A. and Meg White Agitate As Poster Girls for Marc by Marc Jacobs, 2006 and 2008
As Sri Lankan singer M.I.A. ascended into mainstream pop’s landscape with the 2008 crossover hit, “Paper Planes,” Jacobs was hot in pursuit, hailing her as the perfect modern and edgy emblem for his secondary, youthful line Marc by Marc Jacobs. With the angsty M.I.A. as his poster girl, he continued in the vein of musical cross-pollination set into place two years prior, when he cast The White Stripes’ drummer Meg White into his ads. Shot, as always, by Juergen Teller, both campaigns raised a few eyebrows – and not necessarily in delight. Some bloggers decried the cheap flash photography style of the ads as unflattering to the singers (the same bloggers, ironically, who wrote on sites framed in similar glib, low-watt American Apparel imagery), while others had a problem with their alt idols stepping into the fashion mainstream. In any case, Jacobs’ 2006 and 2008 McMJ ads were a clear demonstration of the designer’s ongoing knack for combining style and sound in ways engineered to titillate.
5. Sonic Youth and Marc Jacobs’ Runway Reunion, 2008
As we’ve stated in the past, the Kim Gordon and Jacobs connection runs deep. An avid fashion fan (and sometimes designer herself), Gordon and her band have continually supported Jacobs’ design work, helping him earn a fond credibility over time with a particular New York-centric musical crowd. In thanks, he invited Sonic Youth onto the runway to play “Jams Run Free” and their classic 90s anthem “Kool Thing” for his Fall 2008 show at Manhattan’s Armory building, while attendees swooped up limited edition “Goo” totes. Stream the whole performance:
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