Outspoken designer Marc Jacobs has never been at a loss for words. But when showing his spring/summer 2018 collection at the end of New York Fashion Week, he decided to stay quiet and let his bold designs do the talking.
They were plenty loud. And flashy. And controversy-generating. Again.
Jacobs, arguably America's most influential designer, decided to stage his runway show in silence. No booming disco music or cutesy tunes were to heard as his his 56 models walked in a big square along the Park Avenue Armory's spare wood floors, past an audience seated in a line of metal folding chairs.
It was only during the final runway walk when a haunting aria that ends the opera La Wally's first act reverberated through the cavernous space as the models appeared one last time, casually moving in a group like Olympic athletes on closing night in a basketball gym, and Jacobs made his customary bow.
The 54-year-old designer is not an opera fan, but chose the aria because it is a pivotal part of the '80s French New New Wave classic, Diva, which is one of his favorite films. (Mine too; here's a YouTube clip of the trailer with soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez in the title role.)
As for the collection, Jacobs did have a few words about it in press material. "It's our twisted reinterpretation of what we see in the streets....somewhere," he explained. "We started from last season, and thought: Let's put the effort into making clothes. Let's show in the Armory, like we did before. No sets, no fancy lights, no music.....But let's turn the girls out in joyous, oversized, reimagined, exaggerated prints and colors."
As with most Jacobs' collections, he loaded his models with layer upon layer of clothing and accessories — coveralls over a print satin blouse with puffy sleeves; a sequined coat with pink tulle collar over a striped sweater and turtleneck; a techy jump suit with multi-colored fanny pack, cross-body bag, and spangly faux fur stole are just a few examples. Peel the layers off and each look has a number of items that will brighten up an existing wardrobe.
At times, the collection resembles a sultan's harem, with models in flowing patterned caftan-like gowns and matching turbans. Then it switches to high-tech sporty, with nylon drop-crotch pants, an oversized orange moto jacket, colorblock flight suits, and waterproof parkas. Jacobs also throws in a double-breasted suit in menswear fabric, worn with sandals exploding with a mass of silk tassels.
Evening looks range from dramatic gowns in bright colors worn with over-the-elbow opera gloves to kicky beaded macrame tops with billowy satin pants. It sometimes has a touch of "let's play dress-up in grandma's closet," particularly at the end, when Cindy Crawford's 16-year-old daughter, Kaia Gerber, appears in a sunshine-yellow sleeveless gown with a large flower at the left shoulder.
Even if it all seems a little overwhelming, one thing is clear when you cut through the clutter: Jacobs wants to make fashion fun again.
However, for the second season in a row, some critics accused the designer of appropriating traditional black culture. Last time, models went down the runway in multi-colored dreadlocks: this time some critics on social media noted that the head wraps are similar to those historically worn by African women.
But some fashion historians noted that the late fashion icon Diana Vreeland often worn turbans in the '70s and the head wrap was a staple of Grey Gardens protagonist Little Edie Beale's wardrobe. In his program notes, Jacobs said was inspired by a silver turban Kate Moss wore to the Met Gala in 2009.
Otherwise, he has remained silent.