Hours before the Marc Jacobs Spring 2017 show on Thursday afternoon, held at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, hairstylist Guido Palau was surrounded by models, clothing, and piles upon piles of colored wool.
Palau, who regularly works with Marc Jacobs on his shows and campaigns, explained that the wool, which came in bright shades of purple, pink, yellow, and blue, was going to become multi-colored dreadlocks, piled high on top of each of the models' heads. The inspiration for the look was a combination of director Lana Wachowski, who starred in the designer's Spring 2016 campaign, as well as Boy George and rave culture.
Mid-sentence, Palau smiled toward a petite, quiet woman standing nearby and waved her over. “Jena’s been up all week,” he said. She confirmed with a nod of her head.
The woman he brought over was Jena Counts: a Palatka, Florida-native who has been making and selling dreads on Etsy for about a year. Palau found her through a Google search, which lead him to Dreads by Jena, an Etsy site where she’s been selling her wool creations for about a year. “When they ordered a set of 210, we thought, that's not so bad," recalled Counts. "Until you do the math. Each set has 60 pieces. That's 12,500, to be exact."
And "exact" is the operative word. "We asked her to do all those colors because Marc’s eye is so precise, he wants to see how every shade works." After a few exchanges, Counts and her daughters flew to New York, their suitcases packed with miles of dreads and extra dye. “For adjustments,” Palau explained. “That minutiae, making sure even the root colors are right is so important to Marc.”
Counts says she and her family team clocked about an average of two hours of sleep each night over the past four weeks, but she's not complaining. "This has been an amazing experience," she says.
Amazing, indeed. Palau, referring to Jacobs' show as “Jena’s big coming out,” reflected on what it must be like to be an outsider backstage. “I thought, ‘My god, someone who’s not in this industry must think we’re all quite kooky."
See more in this backstage video here: