Designer Marc Jacobs Reveals What He Really Thinks About Red Carpet Fashion

Marc Jacobs - Lead
Photo: Runway Manhattan/AFF; Charles Sykes/Invision/AP; Scott Kirkland/PictureGroup

History repeats itself, sometimes in unexpected ways. Such was the case with the spring Marc Jacobs collection, staged last September in a storied theater where the models posed for paparazzi on a step-and-repeat, just like at a film première. Since then, the same gowns have been worn by actual movie stars at mega-events around the world, and photographed in much the same way. "It does seem funny," the designer says, "because the entrance to the show was a red carpet. In fact, it's kind of surreal." As usual, Jacobs is first to see the bigger picture in fashion, and this season he's directing it as well.

attends the Marc Jacobs Beauty dinner at the Club at Park Chinois on February 20, 2016 in London, England.
David M. Benett/Getty Images

It's rather fitting that this collection, with its film connections, would have so much resonance with celebrities. So who have you been most wowed by?

Well, I like to think that nothing surprises me anymore, and everything still surprises me. But I am excited when I see anybody wearing something of ours, whether it's a celebrity or a stranger on the street. Of course, I have to say, I was really happy when Kerry Washington took a dress for the Emmys just a day after the show.

You have often mentioned your nostalgia for the New York of your youth and the movies you saw here. How can fashion express that same sense of wonder?

I always say that any collection is an accumulation of thoughts and feelings, but this one took on another life when we decided to move it to the Ziegfeld. It didn't start out as an homage to cinema. The red, white, and blue theme really came from gay marriage being legalized last summer, when I began to have these ideas about what America represents for me. I started having conversations about how movies are such an important part of American culture, which became pieces of the puzzle. Things that felt almost subconscious in the beginning took on so much more meaning, at least to me.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: A general view of atmosphere at the Marc Jacobs Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Ziegfeld Theater on September 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Well, there are many noticeable references, like an opera coat with a jacquard of Maria Callas in Medea and a skirt printed with Janet Leigh shrieking in Psycho.

There are so many things woven into this. We wanted pictures from old movies of women screaming, because I liked this idea of loud, vivacious characters. I've used that Medea image before, in the spring 2008 collection, when Stephen Jones had done an interpretation as a headpiece, which we later photographed on Victoria Beckham. It was really about the idea of women being heard. We randomly chose actresses who were screaming in their roles to make this collage, and Janet just happened to be the most identifiable.

What was Bette Midler's reaction to your recent admission on Instagram that she influenced you to become a designer when, as a boy, you painted her image on the back of your jeans jacket?

I was, like, 9 years old! But she loved it. And it feels full circle, in a way, to work with her and Sandra Bernhard and Lana Wachowski in our spring ads, because these are people who are both part of my narrative and part of my life now.

We're all fixated on fame more than ever, aren't we?

Everybody wants to be a celebrity, which is why we have this phenomenon of social media, where nobody wants to be private. We all want to be seen.

Speaking of that, is it weird to have the media reporting on your every move, even when you're on vacation?

I wouldn't be posting videos of me in drag or doing a remake of Zoolander's orange mocha frappuccino scene if I didn't still like attention.

And isn't that why celebrities love wearing your designs?

I really like that none from the spring collection look like those typical red-carpet mermaid dresses. They're more audacious. It was getting very boring to watch celebrities all wearing the same dress. I want to see women in pantsuits or two pieces, even something a little bit gaudy. It's so much more exciting than just another nice dress.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Joan Smalls walks the runway at the Marc Jacobs Spring Summer 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week on September 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
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