Walking into the New York Public Library for the Marc Jacobs Fall 2021 fashion show on Monday night, I must confess that I felt a little... tender.
It wasn't my first fashion show since the start of the pandemic — I'd gone out to Connecticut for Christian Siriano — or even the first fashion show in New York City, considering the handful of designers who put on quiet affairs in February and September. But somehow, it was the first fashion show since I left Paris in March 2020 that felt real. After all, if Marc is back, New York is back, baby!
Still, as thrilling as it still is to get that coveted Marc Jacobs ticket, it all felt incredibly surreal. Turning the corner to a small crowd of street style photographers, watching familiar (and unmasked!) faces greet each other, finding my seat in the single-file row of metal chairs — it gave me that long-lost adrenaline rush and the urge to run home and hide under my biggest blanket at the same time.
The good news is that Marc Jacobs has designed a collection that captures that exact dichotomy. After sitting out several seasons, the designer is back for Fall 2021, exploring the importance of creativity even in the midst of hard times.
"On the journey back to doing what we love most, in the wake of immeasurable loss, loneliness, fear, anxiety and uncertainty, I am reminded of why creativity is so vital to our existence. To life," he wrote in the show notes. "Our decision to pause allowed us to slow down, reflect, ruminate, reevaluate, grieve and take a thorough inventory of what works, what doesn't work, what we love, what we are willing to let go of and what has value, importance and meaning."
All that contemplation led to a collection which was both joyous and protective. Through 69 looks, Jacobs plays with color and proportion, rendering practical knits and puffer styles that shield the body with their enormous size while making it impossible to blend in with bright shades of purples, oranges, pinks and blues. (For those who aren't ready for that kind of statement just yet, there's also plenty of practical khaki, grey and black.) The flashier fabrics and the iridescent discs scattered down skirts and dresses have a rave-ready quality to them; a black-and-white swirl print, too, has a psychedelic feel. And just to prove New York fashion is really, truly back, Jacobs splashes his label in an oversized print across everything from leggings and beanies to knit hoods and giant blazers; some, in black and white, are dripping with enough beads to render the print abstract.
Scarfs come in the form of enormous fur or puffer wraps trailing luxuriously behind the models — ideal for those who, again, want to hide in a blanket. What better to ground all these shapes than Mary Janes perched high on stomp-worthy flatforms? They peek out from under JNCO-sized pant legs and long knit skirts.
Better than the clothes — though, they were good — was the feeling of joy at getting back into fashion again that radiated through Jacobs's show notes. "Creating a collection requires enormous effort over many months from our small group of extraordinarily talented and dedicated individuals," he wrote, and indeed, he paid tribute to those people by listing each and every one by name just a few pages later.
Also forged in the New York fashion community is a new partnership between Jacobs and the last remaining iconic New York City department store: Bergdorf Goodman. As the retailer that started stocking the brand in the mid-'90s, they'll have the exclusive on carrying Marc Jacobs Runway, starting with the Fall 2021 collection. So while the future may seem unclear, be reassured by the fact that there are those in American fashion who remain steadfastly dedicated to the industry, come what may.
"We find purpose in the work from and for periodic but powerful transcendent moments of joy," Jacobs wrote. "And while the world continues to change with unimaginable speed, my love for fashion, the desire to create and share collections through this delivery system — the runway — endures."