Too soon? Lifetime achievement award to Marc Jacobs signals everything that'swrong with CFDA Fashion Awards
I love Marc Jacobs.
His show remains the hottest ticket and the highlight of every fashion week in New York. His over-the-top sets rival a Broadway production of Spiderman and his collections consistently spark the seasons's major trends. When Jacobs showed Lurex for spring, everyone scurried to follow. His dotty fall collection is sure to be widely imitated as well.
But I just don't think he's ready for a lifetime achievement award.
Sure, the 48-year-old designer has been in the fashion business for more than half his life, during which his collections have ranged from controversial (he was fired from Perry Ellis in 1992 a few days after showing a landmark grunge collection) to influential (his dark, gothic fall 2005 collection that referenced T. J. Wilcox, Violet from The Incredibles and Tim Burton is a favorite). In addition to his namesake lines, his work at Louis Vuitton also has the fashion faithful buzzing. His most recent fall collection for the fabled French fashion house — an homage to The Night Porter, the controversial 1974 film about Nazi S&M eroticism — drew some barbs but temporarily diverted the fashion press in Paris from its obsession with John Galliano's dismissal at Dior.
But isn't it too soon to be honored for the work of a lifetime? Even Jacobs seems bemused about receiving the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Geoffrey Beane Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be bestowed upon him at a glittery gala in New York Monday night. (His good friend, director Sofia Coppola, will do the honors.)
"It should have been a half-lifetime award," he is rumored to have remarked after news of the award was announced.
Nevertheless he agreed to accept it and will be at the podium to pick it up. Designers are so vain (and fragile) that I've never heard of one refusing an honor of any kind.
Actually, a better indicator of Jacobs' incredible talents is that he has been nominated once again in the Womenswear Designer of the Year category, which is generally regarded as fashion's highest annual honor. He will vie against "it" designer-of-the-moment Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. Jacobs has won nine previous CFDA awards, including Womenswear Designer of the Year last year.
His designation for lifetime achievement actually says more about the CFDA Awards than it does about Jacobs. The organization gives out far too many awards every year — a dozen prizes that seem designed more to garner frenzied media attention than honor the truly deserving.
Does Lady Gaga really merit a Fashion Icon Award this early in her career? She'll be honored at this year's awards, too, along with longtime British fashion writer Hilary Alexander, In Style magazine editor Hal Rubenstein, noted fashion photographer Arthur Elgort and Celine designer Phoebe Philo.
Though Philo isn't well known in the United States, her award might be the most entertaining of the night. Kanye West, who has a history of bizarre award show appearances, will be on hand to give her the prize. A big fan of Philo, he rapped about her in his song "Dark Fantasy," ('I'm just a Chi- town [bleep] with a Nas flow, and my bitch in that new Phoebe Philo'). He also wore one of her womenswear blouses while performing at Coachella.
I don't understand why organizers can't present a lifetime fashion achievement award only when it seems truly deserving, even if that's only every few years. Handing out one every year quickly depletes the list of potential honorees, thus leading to quizzical too-early choices such as Jacobs.
However, perhaps it's fitting that Jacobs will get it now as a backlash against him seems to be developing. A recent New York Times article questions whether Jacobs is as influential as the fashion cognoscenti would have one believe. In a 2010 survey of about 600 high-income women by the Luxury Institute, the Marc Jacobs label plummeted to 25th. It ranked 11th in 2009.
"We don't hear as much about Marc Jacobs as we did five or six years ago," youth marketing consultant Irman Zandal told the Times. "With the exception of his fragrances, he is less on people's radar."
Jacobs has never been a hot name in Houston, where his clothes are not perceived to have the aura of Chanel or Oscar de la Renta or the sex appeal of Versace or Roberto Cavalli.
Even so, he will continue to influence the New York fashion faithful even if he's not as white hot elsewhere.