Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier were appointed design director and creative director, respectively, of Marc by Marc Jacobs in the spring of last year but the duo’s return to the spotlight has been anticipated for far longer than that, and the excitement has been mounting ever since. In fact, fly posters scrawled with their names and circled by a heart have been popping up all over the city in the last week. “We have no idea who’s doing it,” said Bartley before the show. “But it’s nice to feel the love.” She was the secret girl crush of a generation of young women with her eponymous label back in the early naughts along with longtime cohort Hillier, and she wrote the book on cool London style quite literally (her acclaimed guide finally published in the States last fall).
Sitting in the front row of the show today next to Sofia Coppola was perhaps their number-one fan: designer Marc Jacobs. The admiration is certainly mutual, and before the show Bartley and Hillier expressed their desire to reconnect to the vibrancy that first energized the line thirteen years ago. “I thought about how I related to the Marc by Marc when it first came out,” said Bartley. “It was about this tough, cool girl.”
Their new vision of coolness directly spoke the visual language of young stylish women at street level right now. Hip British illustrator Fergus Purcell created the zippy motocross-inspired graphics that ran along everything from slinky lamé dresses to baggy faded jeans that were tucked into the legs of fantastic hybrid sneaker boots. The idea of wearing a sneaker with everything is completely in step with life on the urban landscape these days, and girls are likely to go wild for the bright, colorful pairs mounted on a springy sole.
The radical silhouette and proportion of the clothes felt just as right—be it in the boxy line of a mannish coat or the blown-up-big bow-shaped capelets—especially given that the line between a woman and a man’s wardrobe has been blurring all week. The pair left themselves plenty of room for play, styling their Obi-belted ninja characters with bandanas grinning with toothy cartoonish smiles and dripping with Judy Blame charm necklaces. There were several love notes to hits in the M BY MJ archives, and the use of cotton canvas was a nod to pieces that Bartley bought over a decade ago and still owns. With such confidence and broadness of vision on display, it’s clear there’s a palpable synchronicity between the trio, and it will be exciting to see that develop in seasons to come. When Bartley and Hillier came out to take their bow, they looked totally at ease, dressed in—what else— jackets from Jacobs’s spring 2014.