Theatres are dusting off the cobwebs and coming to life, the streets of midtown Manhattan are bustling, Bruce Springsteen is back on Broadway. And last week, the fashion world gathered to join another New York fixture, designer Marc Jacobs, and celebrate a return to live runway shows.
“Through the physicality of this shared experience, I hope to offer a moment of inspiration, curiosity, wonder and possibility,” Jacobs wrote in the programme notes for his fall collection, an eye-popping parade of op-art-inspired puffers and glistening space-age sequins, held under the grand arches of the main branch of the New York Public Library.
Jacobs, whose inventive shows usually close out New York Fashion Week with a jolt of creative energy, chose not to wait for the next edition, which returns in September; he decided to launch this, his first collection after skipping two seasons during the pandemic, in the heat of a Manhattan summer. On a sweltering evening, he gave fans and passers-by a treat: The show was simultaneously projected on to the facade of Bergdorf Goodman, the luxury department store about 15 blocks up Fifth Avenue, where the collection will be sold exclusively.
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The clothes themselves were an enticing mix of puffer jackers and coats in undulating stripes of black and white, some swishing along the floor like glamorous ballgowns on a ski slope, and huge, bright round sequins emblazoned on long dresses and skirts, sometimes with pants underneath. It felt like winter wonderland meets glitzy red carpet, with a refuelling stop in another galaxy.
The models, who included Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber, often wore knit hoods or caps with brims, with braids coming out the back. And they wore chunky black platform shoes, one of which fell off its owner early in the show. (A resourceful model finally gave it a healthy kick to the side of the runway.)
The puffer theme got wildly inventive, with puffer collars to wrap around the neck (and reach up to the ear), or puffer stoles to wrap around the shoulders. The show closed with a series of brightly coloured garments in orange, pink, purple or sunshine yellow. One could imagine they were a nod to the designer’s mood: His program notes began with the word "Happiness."
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“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,” Jacobs wrote.
He explained that his company’s decision to skip the pandemic seasons, when many labels featured digital presentations, "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.”
What does work, Jacobs made clear, is in-person shows. “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," he wrote.
Some of the outfits were so unabashedly voluminous, they brushed against the feet of the spectators, a vital sign if any that this was real, and not a digital presentation.