Returning to the city’s cavernous Park Avenue Armory, Marc Jacobs’s SS20 collection was more reflective and thoughtful than previous outings. He took the bold decision to look back to his 2001 show held the night before the 9/11 terror attacks. Now, 18 years later, the city and its fashion industry have both changed dramatically. This self-referentiality powerfully highlights a turn of history, and leaves you wondering: what might have been?
Given the designer’s recent business highs and lows, one thing is for sure; on the runway, he’s on solid ground. Despite the retained set, when it comes to the models it’s about putting on your glad-rags. The show must go on. And the show does go on. This overwhelmingly fun and optimistic collection involves statement looks to be worn and enjoyed, which are yet still devilishly attention-seeking, at times almost cartoonish. Perhaps this bright fearlessness was there to sell not only clothes but a fairytale: ‘once upon a time in new york…?’
The looks are joyous - perhaps nothing new or directional but a sight to behold nonetheless in their exquisite gaiety. A bricolage of styles and eras, shown together they create a powerful troupe: floral-printed lunch suits; jaw-dropping dresses in shimmering sequins or iridescent ruffles, produced to absurd proportions. Here we see the designer as magpie, rag-and-bone assemblages of magnificent, dazzling colour: an exercise in glittering maximalism.
This outing, then, was a love-song to a diverse city - a city being rebuilt. Once upon a time, NYFW didn’t need a make-over and people didn’t wonder if Jacobs had lost his way. Yet, under Tom Ford, the event has recalibrated. Jacob’s show, “a celebration of life,” closed it and was worth the wait. While it’s almost two decades since 9/11 and the white tents are long gone what is certain now is that New York’s fashion scene matters. It has come of age, all over again.
Until now, the need for runways went unquestioned and unchallenged. Editors and buyers flew all over the world without having to think of environmental consequences. Now times are more nuanced; sustainability is on everyone's lips; carbon is offset and mass consumption scrutinised. But there is still room for fun and Jacobs understands this. SS20 is his call to arms - like an Instagram feed come to life and fabulously scorning those who ever doubted him in the process.
These are uncertain times, yet we need the confidence to embrace uncertainty; to test; to try everything and see what works. And no one loves trying as much as Marc Jacobs. As he penned in the show notes: “We continue to learn from the past.” That’s why looking back is as important as looking forward.