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Marc Jacobs AW19: Good – but is it good enough?

Sandra Halliday
14 February 2019

"Marc Jacobs wows New York Fashion Week". Now that’s not a headline we’ve read for some time, but as the first of the Big 4 fashion weeks drew to a close he did just that.

It wasn’t quite the undiluted triumph we were used to from the designer back in the day. You must remember when his statement-making-but-very-wearable mainline collection was top of the NYFW heap while his cheaper Marc line also drove the trend conversation.

But given the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the label in recent years, it was certainly something.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that NYFW was a lot shorter on pizazz than usual. This mega-sized fashion week was noticeably low on headline-grabbers and it’s amazing how, given the huge number of shows during the week, the absence of just a few big names (Calvin Klein, Victoria Beckham, Tommy Hilfiger) could contribute so much to the apathy factor.

But back with Mr Jacobs, the fact that the collection was less about theatricality, more about wearability, was a plus point, even if there was still a little too much of the ridiculous (a mini dress that looked like a series of layered, striped Pierrot collars? Really?)

But for the coats market it was an autumn/winter gift all wrapped up with a big pussy bow. I have to declare an interest here - he had me at "hello" as Look Number One emerged. Any collection that starts with a leopard print cape is a winner in my book.

And this collection had some more winners: capes; roomy blanket-style striped coats (or capes) with fringed self-scarves or tie necks; heavily embellished evening jackets that would work with jeans as well as anything more grand; the obligatory tuxedo pantsuit; couture-influenced evening dresses and coats in rich silks; the complete contrast of the simplest dresses in mint or black woollens; plus the feathered dresses that should be a red carpet favourite (as long as celebs aren’t worried about being criticised for wearing animal-derived materials).

But to be honest, the details of the collection and Jacobs’ ongoing exploration of voluminous silhouettes are less important than the big question of what it all means for the brand. Is Jacobs back on top form? Not quite, but he’s getting there. 

LVMH is notoriously tight-lipped about the label that it has controlling stake in, but we know that a succession of lost-the-plot collections, the lamented closure of the Marc line, fairly rapid designer/executive turnover and prestige store closures had taken their toll with Jacobs seen as the biggest turnaround challenge in the LVMh empire. However, last year, the luxury giant said that turnaround was definitely “under way”. And let’s not forget that Marc Jacobs Beauty has continued to make a positive impact despite the fashion line’s woes.

Today, there seems to be a new confidence at the label even if it’s not quite the confidence level we saw at some other bog names in new York this week.

Just look at Michael Kors. After taking a battering image-wise due to the excessive supply of its premium handbags, the label is back on form and as part of the Versace and Jimmy Choo-owning Capri Holdings, seems to be on a roll. The 1970s/Studio 54 theme of the AW19 collection simply oozed confidence.

And look at Coach, like Kors part of a multi-brand group, it confidently sends out a variation on its well-established theme each season. But it updates it just enough to tap into key trends, without going ever needing to go wildly out on a limb as Jacobs has often done.

If Jacobs can send out more steady collections like this latest one, who knows, his label might just regain the stye leadership it once had, and that would be a big boost as it works towards the ultimate goal of the kind of profitability LVMH is used to from its star labels.

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