“It’s been great.” These three words were the only indication from Marc Jacob sthat he has, indeed, completed his sixteen years of work for Louis Vuitton. And that was exactly the term—great—for the extraordinary show he sent out in the Cour Carrée du Louvre tent in which he has given fashion people some of the most visceral and dramatic experiences witnessed in recent times. Actually, top that: It was astounding. This exit collection summed up not just what Marc Jacobs can achieve as a showman and designer, but why fashion is worth being part of at all.
Although from the scenery to the clothes, the setting was all black (with the exception of blue jeans), this show did not come from an emotionally dark place. Instead, Jacobs put on a performance which was about showgirls. “The first thing I thought was about Esther Williams and synchronized swimming,” he said. “But then I decided I wanted to do something about black, sparkling black, and texture and night!” In the studio he had the sound track from Chicago on a loop (interspersed with blasts of Rihanna) while he drew all the looks and supervised the fitting of each of 41 intensely worked outfits, each of them a perfect example of what is possible when a great, witty, culturally connected New York imagination meets with what the Parisians call “savoir faire.” Boil it down and you have the genius idea of a fantastically beaded and feathered something. It could be a boldly embroidered jacket or a semi-sheer paillette-paved long dress pulled over jeans; a treasury of Victoriana and ultra-elaborate couture brought down to the level every girl in the street will lust after.
A literal retrospective this wasn’t, although the opening look—Edie Campbell with a Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton graffiti bodysuit, walking like an Erté drawing of something out of the Folies Bergère—had what Jacobs has brought to the brand literally written all over her. She was followed by a sustained parade of wonderful and believable clothes, an enhancement of what Jacobs had already shown in New York, but laden with cross-references to the style of the designers and performers he frankly adores. There were biker jackets in homage to Rei Kawakubo, salutes to Miuccia Prada in the jeweled dresses, and allusions to Elsa Schiaparelli in the surreal placing of motifs on sheer dresses. This grand finale was a summation of a body of work which has vaulted Louis Vuitton—which was just a dusty luggage brand before he arrived—to a commercially dazzling spot in the global firmament.
But this was also a show about shows and show people, and—of course—the shows Jacobs has contributed to the greater glory of Vuitton as well as Paris itself. The set was an all-black composite of his past theatrical triumphs: the one show with the fairground carousel, the fountain occasion, the lift, the hotel, the escalators, the backward-running station clock.And more than that, this was a show of thanks to all the women who inform and inspire him. He named 34 editors, designers, and performing superstars (past and very much present) in the simple and very personal sign-off letter that was left on every seat. His last word? “To the showgirl in all of us!” And what next? Well, the show will go on, but now with Jacobs’s talent moved wholly to the stage in New York. That’s a thrilling prospect. And as for the future of Louis Vuitton? Well, that’s one hell of an act to follow.