Marc Jacobs is tired of seeing young girls wearing black and studs. "It's not such an individual expression," he said after his terrific Spring show, the underlying message of which could've been, duh, be an individual. "If last season was a trip back in time to the eighties," he continued, "this was a trip to the theater, the ballet, the opera." But which shows?
Some saw The King and I in the models' topknots, pointy upturned-toe platform sandals, and Aladdin pants, but it could just as well have been something else. The references, as usual, came at head-spinning speed. There were touches of Zandra Rhodes in the petal-y handkerchief dresses dotted with pearls, and nods in the direction of Jacobs' beloved Japanese designers, especially Rei Kawakubo, in the form of brown and navy suits tweaked with curlicue ruffles. And don't forget the all-Americanisms; Jacobs loves sportswear, both the twisted and the traditional variety.
The show opened with an example of the latter, an almost conventional raincoat belted high above the waist, made strange by the model's Kabuki makeup. Later, Jacobs teamed trim military jackets with long, full skirts and others so short they looked like tufts of ruffles. But there were also zany lamé dresses; lace openwork coats and suits in white and black sequins; a retro silk satin underwear-as-outerwear moment; and sparkly, leg-baring evening numbers that looked like they'd walked right off the stage of a Broadway production and onto the street.
The girls carried big woven bags on long straps, some with foot-long fringe, and a fanny pack made an unlikely appearance, too. That's what's so genius about Jacobs. He can take the most uncool accessory, spin it around, and give it instant fashion cred. Likewise, he can pull references from everywhere and nowhere, and, filtered through his febrile imagination, they have the shock of the new. This show didn't hold together the way his brilliant collection of a year ago did, but that may have been the point. In any case, Jacobs might say, it beats another tired lineup of black leather and studs.