The telltale signs were there.
Encouraged by the success of his contemporary Michael Kors, whose shares have quadrupled since going public in 2011, the star designer Marc Jacobs was rumoured last month to be considering an initial public offering for his namesake brand – and, in the process, abandoning his position as the creative director at Louis Vuitton.
Sixteen years after Jacobs took charge, Louis Vuitton has transformed from an old-school luggage-maker into the world’s biggest luxury brand. Was Jacobs really about to give it all up?
On Wednesday at Paris Fashion Week, he gave the world his answer – in a way only Marc Jacobs can: a spectacular swansong that incorporated sets from his memorable fashion shows, such as a carousel, a railway station clock and a pair of escalators. Only this time, they were all coated in black.
He showed 41 black-on-black looks that featured tassels, ribbon embroidery, fishnets, extreme headdresses, feathered bouclé jackets and even jeans. Jeans at the historic French house. Only Marc Jacobs can. At the end of the show, Anna Wintour led a standing ovation, unheard of in fashion shows.
A fantastic funeral? How poignant – and apt. After all, Jacobs’s theatrical catwalk spectacles have heightened the brand’s profile. The farewell show, held in a courtyard at the Louvre, might also be a nod to a concept Jacobs pioneered: luxury labels collaborating with visual artists. During his tenure at Louis Vuitton, he did so with the likes of Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse and Richard Prince.
So what now? The hunt is on for Jacobs’s successor, wildly tipped to be Nicolas Ghesquière, the former Balenciaga designer. In the meantime, the brand has put brakes on its global expansion – to preserve its exclusivity in response to fears it was becoming too ubiquitous. Last month, it hired the accessories designer Darren Spaziani, formerly with the hip house Proenza Schouler, to strengthen the label’s offering of leather bags.
And what of Jacobs? The designer, who turned 50 in April, plans to take his brand public within the next three years. With the founder’s full focus, Marc Jacobs the brand will only flourish. He is that rare designer whose works come at multiple price points – and all turn out to be retail hits.
In August, Jacobs launched a cosmetics line. He now has more than 200 stores around the globe, including 36 in China. His name is also being attached to that other luxury label, Chanel, as a replacement after the retirement of Karl Lagerfeld.
In his final show notes for Louis Vuitton, Jacobs wrote: “I take pleasure from things for exactly what they are, revelling in the pure adornment of beauty for beauty’s sake. Connecting with something on a superficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level.”
He will be a tough act to follow.