Marc Jacobs

he is not about selling clothes...

Some major designers tailor their collections to please a small group of New York editors. This insures them favorable reviews and ties these very same editors' egos to the success of the line. This "preselling" of a collection is one of the major reasons why some American designers perform so badly in the market place.

Marc Jacobs is a case in point. Annointed years ago as the darling of the NY press because he was young, talented, charming, photogenic and with a assured sense of self - he became a symbol of, and a rallying point for, a group of young and not so young editors who purpose was to establish their place in fashion by redefining American RTW.

When Marc was named as designer for the troubled Perry Ellis line he struggled for a number of seasons trying to redefine the Ellis legacy while still being true to his own fashion vision. Each season the debate about the collection in the press was "is Marc trying to be Ellis too much or not enough?" But most reviews were supportive and his collection was always one of the most popular - if not important - shows of the season.

However the trend most tied to Marc Jacobs was the grunge look. Marc's last collection at Perry Ellis was a reflection of this fashion outlook. Friendly editors were consulted during the design process-their thoughts and opinions were solicited and incorporated in the look of the collection. Editors like Elizebeth Saltzman, among others, heavily promoted the look, and magazines like Mademoiselle featured the anorexic grunge queens on their covers.

After his last show some members of the out-of-town press shook their heads in disbelief. Quotes like "you cannot charge $1200 for a dress that looks like it was bought in a second hand store and makes most women over the age 19 look ugly". Obviouly, the Perry Ellis Company agreed. Marc was fired not because of his lack of popularity or editorial support, but because of his bad taste as seen in the eyes of consumer.

Yet, in the words of an editor at British Vogue, the collection was significant because it showed women that they had choices and they were not slaves to any defined look or style. It was not really important, the editor went on to say, whether the collection sold well or not, but rather that it was "pointing the way for others to follow". It was up to the editors to educate the consumer-by featuring the look on their editorial pages and explaining the significance of the trend. Once the consumer understood the look she will just naturally then go out and buy the clothes.

In other words, the editors will sell the look to the consumer. Well the women just said "no". They simply did not buy the look. Advertisers began refusing to place ads against editorial that seemed so out of place with main stream fashion.Some editors who promoted the look were fired. Entire magazines were revamped.Grunge became a dirty word.

The "new" Marc Jacobs continues to receive support from what is left of the New York "old guard" fashion elite. This may have more to do with the strength of his personal relationship with several of the top editors than to the innovation of his design. Now that he has been hired to design the new RTW collection for the Louis Vuitton will he make the same mistakes again? The French, like Perry Ellis, have little respect for failure - no matter who your friends are.

Marc Jacobs is one of a several American designers who have recently been hired to bring new life to several well known European fashion houses. Marc was hired because of his "persona" - and certainly not for his ability to design clothes that sells. Jacob's track record proves - if nothing else - that moving up does not require the ability to design clothes that women want.

How far can this fashion cult of "personality" go in selling a line? Designers are not rock stars, rocket scientists or Nobel Prize winners no matter how hard the fashion media tries to portray them. Their talent lies in designing clothing that makes women beautiful. Perhaps if Marc and some others would spend more time thinking about who it is they are actually designing for than who they are having lunch with - this industry would be better off.

Marc Jacob's greatest talent is in finding another company willing to hire him for his "designer status." As long as he continues to receive support from important friends in the media, even if Louis Vuitton turns out to be another Perry Ellis it won't make much difference because it really is not about selling clothes

T.O.C.