Wednesday night fashion industry leader Fern Mallis spoke with thee Marc Jacobs in front of a packed audience at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as part of the Fashion Icons interview series. We laughed, we cried and we were inspired by the story of the 49-year-old designer overcoming setbacks in his health, addiction issues and bad press—and somehow prevailing.
Despite being the youngest designer to receive the coveted CFDA award in 1987, the name behind several successful clothing and accessories lines and the Creative Director at Louis Vuitton for 15 years, Jacobs appears remarkably down to earth. He even admits he's still insecure and questions whether he has “made it.”
That and he dropped hints about his upcoming Fall 2013 cosmetics line collaboration with Sephora.
Highlights from the talk below:
On Joan Rivers, who Jacobs’ father, talent agent Steve Jacobs, represented via the Morris Agency back in the day:
“I read in some article that she said, ‘If I knew that brat of Steve Jacobs was gonna grow up to be Marc Jacobs I would have been a lot nicer.’”
On creating the lower-priced, but equally cool, Marc by Marc Jacobs clothing line:
“It was our idea. Both Robert and I love things that are as honest as a cotton T-shirt for 12 bucks, just as we love a cashmere sweater, as we love a duchesse satin dress… it’s an opportunity for design. The integrity of design. You go at them all with the same passion, and it’s great to reach more people. You can’t do that with fur and sequins.”
On his love of tattoos:
“I have 33. My good friend who is an artist, he’s done most of [them]—Scott Campbell. My Favorite? A Jean-Michel Frank couch. And ask me ‘Why a couch?’ because everybody does. And there’s no reason; that’s exactly the reason.”
On why his critically acclaimed September 1992 Grunge Collection (that didn’t sell well at all, by the way) was his most memorable and liberating:
“It’s like the stars were all in line. I was very inspired by this certain group of girls who really were the antithesis of what was considered perfect, beautiful and glamorous. There was something awkward. There was Kate Moss... and photographers like Juergen Teller and Corrine Day, David Sims. There was music happening like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth. I just felt like there were all of these forces saying the same thing. There was this angst and there was this sort of feeling like, ‘Something’s gotta change.’ And it wasn’t punk and it wasn’t hippie. It was a different kind of movement. There was something very honest, very real saying, ‘I’m perfectly imperfect and I’m just as glamorous as I want to be. I wear a flannel shirt and no makeup… and look as just amazing as you do.” So, I guess there was that ’FUCK OFF’ thing.”
On Jacobs’ desire to not handle the business side of things; in particular, his appointment at Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton in 1997:
“You’ll have to ask Robert [Duffy, Jacobs’ business partner since 1984]…. I don’t know. Lawyers start talking and I go zzzzzzzzz. If you want to show me 50,000 swatches of duchesse satin, I’m an attentive audience. But when lawyers start talking? Or an accountant? I’m not really good at staying within a budget.”
On his ulcerative colitis and becoming healthy after Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon referred him to nutritionist Lindsey Duncan:
“I stopped believing in medicine and started believing in nutrition, and taking care of yourself. Lindsey Duncan said, ‘I’m going to change your life.’
I had to take a nap every day, I had to laugh every day, I had to sweat every day—go to the gym, do yoga, get out of the office. And I drank green kale, wheat grass, egg whites, juices. No white flour, no dairy from a cow, no caffeine for the first year at all. I was 100% compliant. It was incredibly hard. I cried.
I go to David Barton [gym] 5 days a week. 2 hours a day. There are a lot of really nice looking people there. I’m still insecure about the way I look… I have issues. But I feel better. And I have my colon.”
On the contents of his bucket list:
Those living in the Washington, D.C. area in the '80s circa the Iran-Contra scandal might remember the bold graphic poster emblazoned with "Meese Is A Pig" popping up around the city. They were hard to miss for commuters and locals alike. The posters appeared overnight and were visible on various public spaces. The graphics were clearly aimed at Reagan cabinet member and advisor Edwin Meese who was enmeshed in Iran/Contra and also the champion of various far-right causes in the administration. The poster campaign got national attention. Soon, the poster's creator, Jeff Nelson (of Dischord Records and Minor Threat fame) was revealed. With respect to Nelson's album sleeve and logo designs (among our favorites ever!), his "Meese Is A Pig" poster remains his masterpiece. Nelson sold T-shirts with the image, which covered his printing costs and the graphics lived on long after the street campaign was over. With Edwin Meese back in the news as the backer a government shutdown and national anti-Obamacare efforts, we're pleased to see "Meese Is A Pig" getting its due.
Detroit boasts a history of legendary axmen—Jack White, Ted Nugent, Robert White, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Coffey to name a few. And now, thanks to the passion project of commercial real estate director and woodworker Mark Wallace, the next great musician on that list may kick out the jams with a guitar made from a chunk of the city itself.
Built in a Corktown workshop, Wallace Detroit Guitars are fashioned from wood salvaged from the city’s recently demolished buildings. Each instrument will be branded with the address of the home that provided the wood, reinforcing the local heritage of the material.
So far, Wallace has created two prototypes that need to be tested, but a recent $8,000 matching grant from the Knight Foundation should allow him to expand production. Eventually, he wants the finished product to include more salvaged material from other local companies, like a strap made out of leftovers auto parts.
“One of the great things about Detroit is the collaboration,” he says. “Everyone wants to work together because they know they’re making the city a better place.”
Wallace's project is currently getting off the ground thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The excellent design blog Thisispaper is now available, wait for it, in paper. We queried editor Zuzzana Gasior on the new print mag.
What is Thisispaper for those unfamiliar?
As Thisispaper we are now running two different, but interweaving projects. Thisispaper Magazine is where we share our inspirations and obsessions from multiple fields of design. Our roots are in the digital world but we find print equally alluring. We started off as an online magazine and continue running it, by we have recently ventured into print and released Thisispaper Magazine Inaugural Issue in paper and ink. Thisispaper Shop is our second, younger brainchild. It’s an online store with hand made products.
Which designers have been selected for the issue, how did you decide who to include?
The full list of featured designers is as follows: Studio Glithero, Faye Toogood, Formafantasma, Phoebe English, Nina Donis, Feilden Fowles Architects; photographers Kanoa Zimmerman and Marcel van der Vlugt; artist Anouk Griffioen.
The selection process was simple. We decided to feature designers whose work we’re impressed by and who have a strong conceptual background behind their work. We were particularly curious to find out about their creative process so we chose the ones that put emphasis on the process, not just the finished product.
Why do you think a print publication was necessary?
As you will quickly discover when you open the magazine, some of the interviews are quite massive, and were intended to be so from the start. We wanted to explore the designers’ creative processes in depth. Such content lives better in a tangible book that online. While surfing the web, people focus on image and have a short attention span and it’s not the best environment to present content that requires a careful reading. Plus we’re really drawn to the beauty of a printed object, the texture of paper, smell of paint and so on.
Thisispaper.com was an ironic name, but now it has a literal meaning.
Good point. Since Thisispaper is an umbrella term for both the site and the magazine, it now means that digital and print can coexist without undermining one another’s position. This is due to the fact that they are good for different things. The content that we feature online is much more image-based, while for print we look for something that requires more time and effort to absorb.
You're based in Warsaw, does that surprise a lot of your readers?
It does come as a surprise sometimes, but mostly to people in Poland. When they see Thisispaper they don’t expect it to be a Warsaw-based endeavor (love the word).
The print publication is a very limited run. Why is that? Do you hope to expand? Is it harder or easier to do a print magazine in Poland?
The print publication is not a limited run. We will print as many copies as there is demand for. 250 is the minimal number that we need to reach in the pre-order period to print the magazine, but there is no maximum limit on how many copies we will print. That said, it’s hard to imagine a situation when Thisispaper is available on every newsstand
Nowadays when distribution mostly happens online, printing a ad-free magazine is a comparable experience in Warsaw and everywhere else. It would probably be harder for us, though, is we were trying to attract sponsors.
Where can one get the print magazine?
Online at thisispapershop.com/product/thisispaper-inaugural-issue or soon at some local stores worldwide.
Do you accept contributions and pitches?
We do. See here for possible ways of working with us: welcome.thisispaper.com
While Swedish students may not have to worry about the same tuition bills as their American counterparts enrolled in private colleges, they do have to contend with a small scale housing crisis. A growing number of students are priced out of conventional apartments. So the architects at Tengbom are testing a housing system at Lund University that would reduce each apartment to just over 100 square feet. The studios have 13 foot ceilings and multiple windows to counteract the small footprint, and use lightly colored sustainable wood as a primary building material. The houses are completely independent from one another, but the plan is to build clusters of about 22 units for a kind of modified communal living. [images via Bertil Hertzberg]