Despite his rocky personal life and recent substance abuse issues, Marc Jacobs remains at the very top of the fashion biz.
Jacobs was born in the city; his dad died when he was seven, and he spent his childhood bouncing around the tri-state area, with stints in New Jersey, Long Island, and the Bronx. It was while attending the High School of Art and Design that he began embroidering jeans and sold his first line of knitted sweaters to the Upper West Side boutique Charivari,
where he worked as a stock boy. He went on to Parsons and then launched his own label in partnership with Robert Duffy, who had attended his senior year fashion show. Although the line was well-received by critics and received orders from Bergdorf and Bloomingdale's, it was far from profitable; it only lasted a year before Jacobs joined Perry Ellis as creative director in 1988. Four years later, Jacobs made waves with his legendary grunge collection, which earned horrible reviews and resulted in his dismissal (although ironically, he won the Womenswear Designer of the Year award from the CFDA that same year).
Jacobs and Duffy re-launched the Marc Jacobs label, opening a small showroom in SoHo. In 1997, with the label again struggling financially, Jacobs accepted an offer to become creative director of Louis Vuitton, a deal that also required LVMH to fund the Marc Jacobs label. He's juggled both jobs ever since, updating Vuitton's once-stodgy luggage brand via collaborations with modern artists like Takashi Murakami as well as building his own eponymous fashion empire. As has been the case since the beginning, Duffy, the omnipresent man behind the curtain, handles the financial side of Marc Jacobs Inc., which allows Jacobs to focus on design.
Though Jacobs' work has evolved over time, he's generally known for his clever revamps of vintage styles, and a quirky, indie-rock aesthetic that appeals to hipster celebs. Sofia Coppola is a close friend and muse, and has appeared in his ads. When Winona Ryder went to trial in the fall of 2002 for stealing clothes (including some by Marc Jacobs), she exclusively wore his demure secretary's outfits and appeared in his Juergen Teller-shot adcampaign the following year. Now one of the
most influential brands in fashion (even though Duffy says it only became profitable in 2006), the Marc Jacobs brand encompasses women's and men's lines, a lower-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line, the Little Marc children's line, fragrance lines, and an accessories line.
Indeed, the business is growing so fast that there are now four Marc Jacobs stores on Bleecker Street. Jacobs has reportedly also signed the lease on a fifth West Village store, at the corner of Bank and West 4th Streets, leading some to snipe that his brand is becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks—and that's not the only negative attention the designer's been getting lately. On top of widespread bitching about his love life and his appearance (see below) his September '07 show didn't go down great with the fashion press, which deemed the clothes, and Jacobs himself, "obnoxious" (WWD) and "a parody" (Suzy Menkes). Not that the designer is necessarily too worried: As he admitted to the New York Times in November 2007, "what I love more than anything is attention. That is about as honest of a statement that I could possibly make. I want a reaction, because I want the attention."
The designer has recently undergone a dramatic physical transformation: previously pale and verging on chubby, with long hair and big black-framed eyeglasses ("for 20 years, I wouldn't even look in the mirror," he's claimed), Jacobs is now crop-haired, skinny, and tanned, and sports contacts and Harry Winston diamond stud earrings. He says he spends two hours a day with a trainer and eats an exclusively organic diet. The new physique—as well as his appallingly corny tattoo of a smiling M&M man—was displayed in a spread in the September 2007 issue of Out where he posed in his underwear.
Image and information from http://cityfile.com/profiles/marc-jacobs
Clothing images from Neimanmarcus.com