All of New York fashion week we've been talking about the 1990s and hearing about clean minimalism. And then along came Marc Jacobs tonight, polishing things off with a fabulously irreverent show that took us on a trip to the 1890s. The set looked like a bombed-out beach, with cigarette butts, Big Gulp cups, a tumbled-over Frozen Treats case, and destroyed fashion magazines strewn in the black sand. A giant Adirondack chair, the mast of a wooden ship, and a bus on its way to Black Hollow numbered among the bigger props. Giant fans in the corners seemed to be blowing hot air on the audience. The handheld fans that ushers handed out on the way in were hardly a match for the stifling temperature inside the venue.

Were we shipwrecked? In some sort of post-global-warming desert wasteland? Neither, said Jacobs backstage afterward, rattling off a few random talking points: "It's more of a weird frat party, Burning Man, shores-of-Gotham City sort of beach scene. It's a lovely nightmare, or it was for me anyway." And this, more interestingly: "I didn't want the cliché of Spring and Summer, I wanted it to be about girls who have no problem coming to work in a Victorian gown and Birkenstocks." (For the record, Jacobs' sandals this season owe more of a debt to Tevas than Birks.) Rejecting the received wisdom of other runways, he went on, "I don't have one friend who dresses in all white."

Zing! Take that, New York. Jacobs' clothes, in contrast to the prevailing Spring currents, were printed, appliquéd, embroidered, and tasseled. And dark. There were large hibiscus prints in red and white on a coat and maroon and white on a shirt and shorts set, but black, navy, bottle green, and brown were the dominant colors here.

Even a bellwether like Jacobs might have a hard time getting twenty-first-century gals into the passementerie-laden sailor's jackets that he started with. Blame the out-to-there shoulders, not the cute hip-slung shorts that accompanied them. But his printed and embroidered dresses were another story entirely. Cut like exalted sports jerseys and worn like they were no big deal with wrestler's boots, they had an unprecious cool—exactly the kind of thing an It girl like Sky Ferreira, who made a surprise cameo on the runway, might wear for a stroll through the Lower East Side. Widow's weeds dresses marched by on flats, too. It was hard not to love this show's attitude. Georgia May Jagger sported a sweatshirt embroidered in red and white with the wave on a Coke can. Just what Jacobs' point was we don't know, but he's the real thing—out in front of the rest of the town without hardly breaking a sweat.