An Alice and Wonderland theme offered an occasion -- or, perhaps, an explanation -- for the bold, incongruous clothes Marc by Marc Jacobs trotted down the fall 2014 collection show Tuesday afternoon, where Jacobs & co. installed wooden ramps to make the warehouse space look like a skater park.
Looks were either rebelliously masculine -- sharp-shouldered blazers and draped trousers tucked into knee-length socks and tall, chunky sneaker-boots -- or kitschily feminine -- think blouses adorned with giant bows and big, pleated skirts.
The collection, set to the powerful soundtrack of Tim Burton's remake of the novel, was fresh and original, but left me wondering who, exactly, the Marc by Marc Jacobs girl is. She is certainly not the pretty, clever, confident girl we've seen to date, but something more rebellious, more aggressive and cool -- like the BMX girls new designers Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley claimed to be inspired by, or one of the female avatars in the PlayStation game "Street Fighter." The style of Japan's so-called Harajuku girls was also clearly referenced.
The collection had a lot riding on it: It's the first the Marc Jacobs company has shown since Jacobs left Louis Vuitton with ambitions to turn his own company into the next Michael Kors. It's also the cash cow, accounting for 70 percent ($750 million) of Marc Jacobs's net sales last year, according to President Robert Duffy. Interesting, then, that Marc by Marc showed a very un-Kors-like -- that is, not terribly commercial -- collection. These clothes don't look like they are trying to appeal to the same customer that J.Crew and Kors have targeted so successfully -- the 18 to 34-year-old woman who wants colorful, feminine clothing and handbags, appropriate for class or the office.
The question is: Can Jacobs build a multi-billion dollar company without her?