New York fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014: Marc by Marc Jacobs, by Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley
Marc by Marc Jacobs is – or rather, was until a few hours ago – seen as an ugly sister to Jacobs’ main line, the pace-setter of New York Fashion Week, and usually of the season as a whole.That wasn’t always the case. When originally launched, Marc by Marc generated its own buzzy hype, and its own best-sellers. Remember the biro-scribbled jeans and denim frock-coats? Somehow, however, this diffusion line diffused just that bit too much. The fabrics weren’t what they should be, and the design was somewhat watered down.
This season it’s all change at Marc by Marc Jacobs – a name that, incidentally, may be being jettisoned, according to a recent interview with Jacobs himself. Maybe that’s because Marc by Marc Jacobs isn’t by Marc Jacobs anymore. It’s by a British twosome, Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, creative director and head designer respectively, who were brought on to grab MBMJ by the scruff of its honestly-rather-dull neck and give it a bit of a shake-up.
I’m writing this from London, hence missed the show they staged a couple of hours ago. But I snuck in to look at the clothes and to talk to Hillier and Bartley on Sunday night, amidst rumours of a blizzard that failed to materialise. It’s quite appropriate that I’m this side of the Atlantic, as they were holed up with a full-on London contingent, including designer Judy Blame, casting director Jess Hallett and stylist Venetia Scott (menswear stylist Alister Mackie had also been in to oversee the boy’s stuff). There was a decidedly British feel to proceedings. Not necessarily to the clothes themselves, but to the set-up, and the mood.
That mood was, honestly, ebullient. Bartley fairly bounced through the racks to show me stuff, while Hillier pointed out half-a-dozen of her favourite looks. There were motocross ninjas (ninji?) with bandannas half-covering their faces, transfer-printed denims, brightly-coloured, poppy, plasticised bags. Giant comedy key rings. Huge trainers cross-bred with snow-boots (maybe those were a nod to New York). Quite a few looks had enormous bows crossing the hearts of the models’ chests. The best was in a tightly-woven gingham faille, or an enormous tartany check.
This collection has a lot of identity, but no identity theft, which is increasingly rare. If there was a bit of déjà vu, it was of old Luella collections. “Looking Hard In The Yard” both she and I intoned at a red-and-white colour-blocked shirt, reminiscent of a classic skinhead-inspired Luella collection from 2001. But that’s clever, both for Luella (she’s had great hits, so why not do a greatest hits?) and for Marc.
Luella Bartley always made clothes that made young, cool girls look young and cool. She’s really good at it. That’s exactly what Marc by Marc Jacobs, or whatever it ends up being called, should be. It’s not aspirational fashion, it’s accessible fashion. It’s cheap – ish, at least compared to the four-figure shoes and price-on-application garments being offered across the board at other houses – and certainly cheerful. It’s fashion to wear out, rip, ladder, stain, possibly lose, buy again before the season is over.
These are clothes to go out in, stay out in, misbehave in. They’re clothes to live in, for God’s sake. And when so many designers are creating clothes that seem like machines not for living, but for catwalking in (not even real walking, not in those shoes), Bartley and Hillier’s practical outlook is tantamount to a revolution. Which, incidentally, was one of the words printed onto those motocross-inspired garments.
Then again, so were “Be Nice” and “Bunny Hop”. So maybe we shouldn’t read into them too deeply. This collection wasn’t about intellectual claptrap, just clobber. Good clobber, too.
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