What's a designer to do when fashion week has turned into little more than a contest to see which brand can out-spend, out-spectacle, out-stunt cast and out-Instabait all of the others? According to Marc Jacobs, you strip away all of the frills — including the set, the music, the photo pit, the lights and even a proper runway — until there's nothing left but models, clothes and two rows of people quietly watching them walk by (without their phones in hand, at the humble request of Jacobs). It's an idea that seems almost ancient in its simplicity, but sometimes it's the quietest statements that make the loudest impact. And with his pared-down show that stood stark contrast to his over-the-top productions of seasons past, Jacobs closed down New York Fashion Week by giving editors the ultimate privilege: the chance to be present and just enjoy the damn collection.
Instead of using the Park Avenue Armory as a mere skeleton for an elaborate set, Jacobs left the space completely bare — down to the weathered wooden floors that doubled as the runway — and lined up hundreds of metal folding chairs for guests, labeled only by black stencil numbers. Show notes were kept minimal, printed on white paper and tucked into a brown cardboard folder; instead of spotlights, the space was illuminated by the sun streaming in through the high-sitting windows. The usual crush of photographers at one end of the runway (and swarming the front row) was gone, too, making for an eerie silence as we waited for the show to begin — which it did with very little warning.
As soon as the seats were filled, the first model, Slick Woods, emerged from the wings. Without a booming soundtrack, we could hear the clothing as it moved, and without dozens of iPhone-clutching hands outstretched in an attempt to take photos, we could actually appreciate the detail of each look that walked by. (I also took notes! With a pen!) For fall, Jacobs was inspired by the evolution of hip-hop style and streetwear — particularly the era that coincided with his high school years in New York City. The collection was titled "Respect" (which could certainly allude to the cultural insensitivity the designer found himself in hot water for last season); according to Jacobs, the range "is an acknowledgement... for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style."
With an incredibly diverse cast that included mostly models of color, like industry favorites like Winnie Harlow, Lineisy Montero, Adwoa Aboah, Binx Walton and Alek Wek, as well as several transgender and non-binary models, the hip-hop influence came through in a deferential (rather than appropriative) way: pants were wide, flared and relaxed; knitwear was patterned and oversize, often with large gold zippers and high necks; heavy gold chains, giant hoop earrings and statement hats by Stephen Jones accessorized the majority of the looks; and casual elements like sport-stripe pants and track suits were plentiful.
Everyday, highly commercial outerwear was the big story, and easy corduroy, denim and menswear-inspired coats were made glamorous with the addition of shearling or fur. For those looking to emulate the "rap royalty" aesthetic à la '90s-era Lil Kim (who sat front row at the show), there were boxy furs, sequined and feathered minidresses, shiny Lurex numbers and sexy keyhole cutouts. The handbags were sizable and sturdy enough for a busy urban life, and the footwear was surprisingly practical, with either walkable, knee-high boots or chunky, rugged platforms complementing each look.
The 42-look show ended as suddenly as it began; after the last model exited the runway, there was about a minute of quiet before the designer walked out to take his bow, directing the audience outside in the process. What awaited us was the requisite Instagram "moment," with the models sitting on the sidewalk against stacks of speakers blaring old-school hip-hop, not-so-subtly throwing shade at social media-obsessed editors by posing with their iPhones. Emerging from the near-silent Armory out into the lively street on the scene was one of those genuine surprises that is all too rare these days: As I (almost reflexively) reached into my bag to grab my phone for photos, I realized how much I enjoyed those precious few moments without it. Jacobs was able to evoke feelings of true appreciation from the audience, and all it took was asking them to unplug and not worry about anything outside of the cavernous venue for a few minutes. It might be the most bare-bones fashion show I've ever seen, but it's one I won't soon forget — yes, even though my camera roll isn't clogged with blurry images from the runway.
See the full Marc Jacobs Fall 2017 collection in the gallery below.
Homepage photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images