Tropical Storm Irene may have spared New York City at the last minute, but Marc Jacobs was left scrambling. His design and sample room staffs were unable to work the weekend Irene hit town, forcing the designer — who usually shows on Monday evenings at the Lexington Avenue Armory — to postpone his show until Thursday, the closing night of Fashion Week. Given the unusual fabrics and finishes he sent down the runway, it’s easy to see why the postponement was necessary.
Jacobs’ show began with the opening of a grand curtain, revealing all 46 models spread across a stage seated on and sprawled over chairs, reminiscent of Bob Fosse’s famed “Hey, Big Spender” dance number from the Broadway musical “Sweet Charity.” As the audience soon discovered, both the musical and runway show are about “working girls” — Fosse’s dancers are call girls, and Jacobs’ models had a weary “Rosie the Riveter” air about them, swaddled in long skirts and kerchiefs or do-rags wrapped round their heads.
Projecting out from the stage was a runway that looked like an old wooden boardwalk or beach promenade, with old-fashioned lighting. One by one, the models took to the boardwalk, as if out for a stroll at Coney Island after work, or while on break from a nearby factory. And, like our own economy, times are tough, too, it seems, in this make-believe world, given the wardrobes of these women. Each outfit seemed to be an object lesson in how to make more out of less. Recycle, recycle, recycle.
The first model, for instance, wore a “paper finish” leather coat, a skirt fringed with splices of film and a sweater tarted up with sequins. Others wore recyclable goods like tinsel organza tops, a cellophane organza dress or do-rag, silicone dresses and skirts, and a dress and cropped suit of plastic studded-metal eyelet.
Accessories told a similar tale. There were tarnished-metal pumps, fake croc bags or faux python patent loafers.
Underneath the odd garbage bag glam are pieces that will actually be sold in stores: nylon-cashmere sweatshirts, silk faille skirts, a series of sweet gingham-organza shirts, cropped jacket and bonded gingham coat. But it seems more of a show with a message than actual merch to sell.
The whole thing had the oddly hypnotic draw of “Grey Gardens,” the documentary (and subsequent movie and musical) about Jackie Kennedy’s kooky relatives living in the Hamptons, eating cat food and fashioning turbans out of sweaters. Jacobs’ gals, we hope, haven’t fallen quite that low. But it’s telling that in a world in which we’re increasingly told to just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, these models are wearing cowboy boots made of mirror and sheer plastic. If there are bootstraps to pull, you can’t see ‘em.