Marc Jacobs’s Return to the Runway Was Well Worth the Wait


Happiness–the title Marc Jacobs gave to his Fall 2021 fashion show. He might also have called it Resilience, Determination, Regeneration, Defiance, all of which he put on tangible display at the New York Public Library on Monday night.

This collection would have made for major fashion viewing at any time. But right now, at this moment, when the world is striving to restart life as we knew it–and New York fashion is in need of wonder–it elicited that promised happiness and more on the part of the small group of guests invited to attend. The show felt like a positive harbinger, crystalizing the signs of normalcy percolating for life in general, and (because we’re not called fashion people for nothing) a strong New York Fashion Week in September.

The closing look from Marc Jacobs’s fall 2021 collection, shown at New York Public Library on June 28.

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

There was a great deal going on here, and the collection answered important questions. Number One: Yes, Jacobs, who over the years have given New York many of its most extraordinary show moments, still believes in the runway. He spelled it out in his program notes: “The desire to create and share collections through this delivery system–the Runway–endures,” he wrote. Unlike most of his peers, he chose not to experiment with various digital ways of showing during the pandemic, and hadn’t done a collection since Fall 2020.

Also answered: Jacobs still believes that if you’re going to do fashion, do it fearlessly.

marc jacobs fall 2021

A look from Marc Jacobs’s fall 2021 collection, shown at New York Public Library on June 28.

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

Whether or not the timing, in such close proximity to the Paris couture collections was deliberate, this is American couture. No, the clothes won’t be cut to each client’s specific measurements, but in their creativity and execution, they are haute. So, too, are their references–Balenciaga, Courrèges, Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin. Jacobs worked dramatic proportions, ingeniously interlocking elements of mid 20th-century chic with street and futurism, focusing on the trappings of protection–huge outerwear, ample padding, major headgear.

And if one felt a faint ominous subtext beneath the pilings, particularly since the models’ faces were often obscured, it was countered by the surface punch of bold graphics and a lively palette.

marc jacobs fall 2021

Looks from Marc Jacobs’s fall 2021 collection, shown at New York Public Library on June 28.

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

One series featured the letters of Jacobs’s name exploded into near abstraction. (A not-straight line to the Stephen Sprouse and Louis Vuitton?) He used this for immense coats and parkas over similarly logo’ed leggings and extra-wide iridescent pants. There were also inviting sweaters, skirts and magnificent dresses, some made from giant, luminous paillettes that will no doubt call out to the cool-girl faction of the red carpet set.

It was a whole lot of fashion–too much to take in at first look. And, so for his finale, Jacobs sent his models out sans outerwear, the better to focus on dress, skirt, sweater, pants and—probably the sexiest things he has designed in 30-plus years on the job—vibrant, backless bodysuits worn in contrast to floor-sweeping cut-velvet skirts. Surely the client texts and emails are keeping Bergdorf’s personal shoppers busy today.

marc jacobs fall 2021

Marc Jacobs backstage at his Fall 2021 show on June 28 at the New York Public Library

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

Speaking of which, left unanswered: the Bergdorf Goodman of it all. The collection is exclusive to the store. Though odd that the clothes won’t be available in Jacobs’s own stores, it is encouraging to see on the part of Bergdorf’s a commitment that lives up to its long-held reputation as the crown jewel of tony New York retail. Especially under the custodial watch of Linda Fargo, who understands fashion–she lives it, breathes it, bleeds it–this collection of major fashion will be nurtured at retail.

In his program notes, Jacobs thanked everyone involved in the development of the collection and the production of the show, noting more than 100 people and entities by name. His exiting guests felt reciprocal gratitude–grateful and excited to be back at a live fashion show, and grateful that this live show was worth the wait.

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