Marc Jacobs has been the most influential designer in New York City since he showed his infamous grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 1992, a show that “sent an electric shock through the world of fashion,” as Lynn Yaeger would later write in Vogue. The industry commentariat hated it and, eventually, the collection cost Jacobs his job. Today, the designer looks back on it fondly. “I was very happy with the grunge collection because of what it represented in my head, and how it was like kind of the first time I didn’t care what anybody thought. I just wanted to do what I liked,” he told W recently for its Royals issue. That collection would prove to be a watershed, not just for other designers, but before Jacobs himself began his rise, an ascent that has allowed him to cultivate his beloved namesake label and a creatively fulfilling stint at Louis Vuitton. A week before he shows what is consistently one of the most anticipated shows of New York Fashion Week, the designer looks back—on his adolescence, on his love affair with fashion, and his first kiss.
What was the first thing you remember designing?
A sweater. Oh, no, that’s not true. The first thing I designed was a jumpsuit, a boiler suit, I guess people call it. Pale blue.
Was it cool?
It had patches.
And did you wear it?
It was really cool. It was based on like a gas station attendance boiler suit. I know I wore it to the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. I think I was 12 years old.
And then you made the sweaters for [cult New York boutique] Charivari?
I made this sweater for Charivari. Those are the first things I designed and sold. Hand-knit sweaters that I designed while I was at Parsons [School of Design], but then they were produced for sale at Charivari. There was one with squares, like in a grid, and there were once with spots that decreased in sizes, and then there was the striped one.
And you worked at Charavari, too?
I worked at Charavari just before I turned 16 during the summer and after school for years.
And how old were you when they hired you at Perry Ellis?
I never worked at Perry Ellis. Oh, yeah [Laughs]. I did. I did. I did. I did. Sorry, sorry. I was 25 when I to work at Perry Ellis.
And then you became?
Do you ever look back at collections like the grunge collection and think that was an amazing collection or do you see the flaws and everything?__
Yes, I look back on things and think they were amazing, and yes I look back on things and see only the flaws. Mostly I see the flaws, but, I was very happy with the grunge collection because of what it represented in my head, and how it was like kind of the first time I didn’t care what anybody thought. I just wanted to do what I liked. Or it was the first time in a long time that I just did what I wanted to do. And I felt very inspired by what was going on in art, in the music and fashion and fashion photography. But, I see the flaws in the clothes, and I certainly learn each season, I think, a little bit more about clothes and fitting and all of that kind of stuff. But it’s never right, and I’m always dissatisfied.
But you’re a genius, and so I want to know, who in design, or fashion, any kind of fashion, is a Royal to you?
Well, there’s, there is a pretty long list actually. Royals to me would be Yves Saint Laurent, and Elsa Schiaparelli, Miuccia Prada, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela, just to name a few. I’ve been inspired by Rei’s work, I’ve been inspired by Muccia’s, I’ve been inspired by all of those people. I mean, probably the designer that I go back to the most is Saint Laurent. I have a friend who I used to work with a lot and we’d always say, ‘When in doubt look at Saint Laurent.’ And, it was the whole world of Saint Laurent that I loved.
Do movies inspire you as well?
Very much. Movies inspire me; music inspires me; art inspires me; people inspire me; life inspires me; real and fictitious characters inspire me. There’s so many great characters in literature and film that I have fallen in love with and have been the inspiration for certain collections or certain looks. And I think we all kind of portray fictitious characters sometimes anyway.
Royals 2017: Why Pharrell Williams, Winona Ryder, Tracee Ellis Ross and More Are the Role Models of Today
Winona Ryder wears Fendi dress; Angela Friedman bra; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Fogal tights; Gucci shoes. Beauty: Chantecaille.
Tilda Swinton wears Loewe jacket, shirt, and pants. Beauty: Chanel.
Hailee Steinfeld wears Valentino dress. Beauty: Maybelline.
Tracee Ellis Ross wears Vetements dress. Beauty: Lâncome.
Saoirse Ronan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shirt and pants. Beauty: Nars.
Chris Hemsworth wears Boss shirt and pants; his own belt and necklace. Grooming: Hugo Boss.
Pharrell Williams wears Sacai shirt; Bulgari necklace (top); his own necklace. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.
Robert Pattinson wears Dior Homme turtleneck; Haider Ackermann pants. Grooming: Dior Homme.
James Corden wears Ann Demeulemeester shirt and hat. Grooming: Neutrogena.
Jared Leto wears Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Artemas Quibble belt. Grooming: Gucci.
New Royalty: Movie Star
My first kiss was on set. It was my very first film as well. My character really liked this boy, and she didn’t know if he noticed her. In the end she got to kiss him. At that time, I was only 11 years old, and not ready to kiss a boy. I asked the director, “How long do you want me to kiss him? How many seconds?” And the director said, “Three seconds.” So while kissing, I counted in my head. Every single take I was like, One, two, three. And then: “Okay, kill, cut!” I definitely suffered for art.
Ronan wears a Louis Vuitton top, cape, and shoes; Falke tights.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
Is there anything that scares you? I’m not easily scared, and I’m wary of being bored. I think risk-taking is a subjective thing. One person’s risk is another one’s comfort zone. And, to be honest, I’m too lazy to get easily scared. Maybe I’ve got a bit of my brain missing, but I love not knowing what I’m doing next. What about when it comes to clothes? Did you always have a fashion-forward outlook? Again, what somebody might think of as unusual is, to me, supercomfortable, inspiring, and interesting. I’ve never truly been that aware of fashion; I’m interested in style.
Swinton wears a Haider Ackermann shirt; Alexander Calder necklace from Stephen Russell, New York.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
Where do you get your ideas? The shower is a frequent place. Actually, near any running water—whether it’s the faucet or the shower. And sometimes I get ideas on a plane because of the sound deprivation.
Do you record your ideas on your phone? I just hold on to them. The best way to remember something is if you home in on the excitement. That you don’t forget.
Is there a song that makes you cry? It’s been maybe 10 years since I heard something that made me cry. There is an old Donny Hathaway song called “Take a Love Song,” and it would make me emotional. But I think I was eating a lot of weed candy at the time, so that may have pushed me over the edge.
Whom do you consider Royal? Wes Anderson. I love what he does. Bill Murray running from a playground in Rushmore made me very happy. Anderson’s composition is amazing: his color, the music that he uses. I’m not an actor, but, in a heartbeat, I would just walk by or whatever he asked me to do in one of his films.
Williams wears a Chanel jacket and necklace; G-Star pants; Adidas Originals = Pharrell Williams shoes; his own shirt, belt, bracelets, ring, watch, and socks.
Classic Royalty: Renaissance Person
When did you start dancing? When I was 3. I loved it. I did recitals and I loved being onstage. I particularly loved the collective mind of the audience. Applause was nice, but I liked the silence of the audience better. The silence means, Oh, my! You have their rapt attention.
MacLaine wears an Akris turtleneck.
Classic Royalty: Activist
I came to New York in the ’70s to become president of Planned Parenthood. It was a time of great difficulty for the city—and for the country—but also one when women made tremendous progress toward being in control of their lives and their bodies. My position allowed me to be a spokesperson for women in the midst of the great changes that were taking place and the turmoil that occurred as a result of them. Today, 40 years later, the continuing opposition to Planned Parenthood comes from people who want to roll back the clock.
Wattleton wears a Row coat; Vhernier earrings; Verdura necklace.
New Royalty: Activist
When I was 11, my parents gave me an iPhone. I think it shaped who I am as a person because I had access to everything very, very early on. But now I’m 18 and I have gotten rid of it. I was worried about the mental-health effects it was having on me. The phone was taking over my life. I felt like I was floating away, and part of that had to do with being in a virtual world without any tangible substance. I felt like I was always refreshing Instagram instead of refreshing my life.
Stenberg wears a Prada top; Buccellati earrings.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
To me, Paula Abdul is royalty. I just saw her live, and the whole time I was watching her, I was hitting the person next to me and saying, “Oh. My. God. Yes!” I’m late to the game, but Paula Abdul is completely amazing.
Steinfeld wears an Yves Salomon coat; Nili Lotan dress; Mahnaz Collection ring; Lynn Ban earring.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
There were eight boys in The History Boys, and we were all at a similar point in our careers. The other seven would get incredible scripts for Spielberg movies or big HBO shows, and I would get a one-page script for the guy who drops off a TV for Hugh Grant. I remember thinking, These decisions are being made based on the way I look. I realized then and there that I needed to try and start creating stuff on my own. And I did.
Corden wears a Berluti jacket; Burberry shirt; Balenciaga scarf.
New Royalty: Society
The notion of being born into the right stratosphere no longer exists. More and more, young people want to dedicate their lives to doing something meaningful that has a positive effect on the world. That’s what is valued now—not your name or your lineage.
Bush Lauren wears a Ralph Lauren shirt; Zimmerli of Switzerland tank; Hermès scarves; Vicki Turbeville earrings; vintage bracelet from Stazia Loren, New York.
Classic Royalty: Society
You got involved with God’s Love We Deliver during the ’80s AIDS epidemic. It was a terrible time. We delivered meals to people who were sick. A lot of my friends thought I had lost my mind. There was so much fear.
How did you meet Robert Trump? At a fundraiser. We were married in 1984. But years later things changed, and, in 2007, we divorced.
Did you go to your former brother-in-law’s presidential inauguration? Yes. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. [Laughs] It’s like, Am I really here? I went to all the balls, and there was a wonderful small lunch, and Donald and Melania were there. She looked beautiful.
Is it strange to see your last name everywhere? Yes—very, very strange. I mean, forget paying with a credit card. It’s always, “Are you related?” It never ends.
Trump wears a Chloé dress; David Webb earrings.
New Royalty: Model
I always go into a zone when I’m posing for a photographer. I like to try and get into whatever character is wanted for the photos. For this shoot, I tried to be kind of vulnerable and soft because I can be quite hard with my resting bitch face. I wanted to look innocent, but mysterious. And royal. Very royal.
Aboah wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC dress; Stephen Russell earrings; Vhernier bracelets; her own rings.
Classic Royalty: Model
What is your secret skill? Fucking.
Fucking? Mm-hmmm. It’s an awfully good thing to be good at, no? And it goes on forever, guys and girls. You should remember that.
Hutton wears a Row coat.
Classic Royalty: Superhero
My first audition was for some random sort of commercial. I remember walking in and having to tell them about myself, and none of it was very interesting because I never got those jobs. My first regular acting gig was on a soap opera called Home and Away. I did that for three and a half years, and I went through every melodramatic tragedy that one can go through: plane crashes, fires, robberies, landslides. I had three different kids with three different women. And my character was 19 for three years. I never had a birthday. Never aged.
Hemsworth wears a Boss jacket, shirt, and pants; Western Spirit bolo tie; stylist’s own belt.
New Royalty: Superhero
I don’t fuck with karaoke. I tried it once, and it was the biggest disaster. The song I bombed on was “Eye of the Tiger.” It was at a wedding, in front of hundreds of people. The only line of the song that I knew was “eye of the tiger,” so I just mumbled, and it was awful. Deep shame. Now I stick to singing my own songs onstage with my band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. There are some things you just know you’re not good at.
Leto wears an Ann Demeulemeester shirt; Gucci pants; Mikimoto pearls; his own ring and necklace.
New Royalty: Television
As a boy, I was very, very sensitive. Ever the emotional young thing. In eighth grade, a drama teacher put me in a play, and I got really involved with theater. Within a year, all the kids who were making fun of me were my allies. I remember thinking, Instead of being a weird guy in the corner of the classroom, now I’m the weird guy that everyone has to pay attention to! And, like, Wow—maybe someone will kiss me!
Middleditch wears a Prada shirt; Coach 1941 pants; Artemas Quibble belt; Calvin Klein 205W39NYC boots.
Classic Royalty: Television
Since signing on to Stranger Things, I’ve become a binge-watcher of TV. My favorite show is The Americans. It’s brilliant, and Keri Russell is just mind-blowing. I watched the entire last season all at once, and I was crushed when it ended. I met Keri, and I was like, “What’s going to happen?!” I had turned into a fan-geek. But she wouldn’t tell me. Everyone in TV has to keep things a big secret—which I’m learning.
Ryder wears a Dior dress and hat.
New Royalty: Movie Star
I didn’t think I could play Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton. I was asked to audition, and I remember saying no because I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up. I was nervous because it was Dr. Dre. And now, after the film, I walk down the street and people ask, “Is that Dr. Dre?” Nobody did that before Compton. Now everybody does it.
Hawkins wears a Giorgio Armani jacket, shirt, and pants; Tom Ford shoes.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
What was your first acting job? When I was 15 or 16, I was cast as Reese Witherspoon’s son in the film Vanity Fair. I went to the screening, and no one had informed me that I had been cut from the film. But the casting director felt so guilty that she gave me a first run at the part of Cedric in Harry Potter, which I booked. So, in the end, I was quite glad to have been cut from Vanity Fair.
How did you prepare for your role as a bank robber on the run in Good Time? I stayed in character for several days and got a job at a car wash. I wanted to change myself so that people would not be able to recognize me for the whole shoot. And it worked. We were filming in a packed subway at rush hour; I was directed by text message, and no one could tell we were making a movie. Not one person took a cell-phone picture, which would have ruined the whole thing. It was great to not be recognized.
Pattinson wears a Berluti jacket; Charvet scarf.
Classic Royalty: Television
After Everybody Loves Raymond ended, it wasn’t hard to say no to other sitcom offers. This sounds awful, but I had all the money I needed, my wife had all the money she needed, and creatively I wanted to do other things. I thought, Suddenly I have time, I have money, I have a bit of fame, and this is going to be fun. After three months, it wasn’t fun anymore. I had a kind of emotional breakdown until I started creating the next show. People ask me sometimes, “How do you keep going?” And I like to say, “I have to keep moving, or I catch up with myself.”
Romano wears a Balenciaga shirt.
New Royalty: Television
Your mom is Diana Ross. Did you ever borrow her clothes? I’m not going to lie: It was more like stealing. One time, she left the house and I saw her car go down the driveway. I marched myself into her bathroom and started taking clothes. I liked to put them in my closet and live with them as if they were mine. Just as I was loading up, my mom walked into the bathroom. She said, “What are you doing?!” I was like, “I’m organizing your closet for you!” To this day, I visit her closet and call it shopping.
Ross wears an Alexander McQueen dress; Gianvito Rossi shoes.
Do you have a favorite character in movies?
Well, my favorite book of all time is The Great Gatsby, and one of my very favorite characters in literature is Daisy Buchanan. I just love her name.
You had a dog named Daisy.
Huh, yeah. And a perfume, which is named after the dog, which was named after Daisy Buchanan. I have many muses and I don’t like the word muse. It sounds kind of pretentious. I mean, people inspire me, real or imaginary. Or real or imagined. And fashion inspires me, art inspires me, like I said. There’s just so much and there is not kind of like a rule and it depends, kind of where I’m at and what day of the week it is and what time of day it is, and all that stuff. And seing somebody I don’t know, that just has a great personality or meeting somebody new can be inspiring, and then watching a movie and watching someone dressed in costume or acting can be inspiring. So, I guess it’s all good.
Ok, a silly question to end. Where was your first kiss?
Oh God, it was with Lauren. I don’t know if I should say the full name. Yeah, it probably was. I’ll say her name. It was with Lauren Buongiorno when I was in sleepaway camp. Where was that camp? I think it was either Starlight, Pennsylvania? I went to two sleepaway camps. One was Camp Starlight and then there was another one, but I can’t remember what its name was. But I’m pretty sure my first kiss was with Lauren Buongiorno.
And, did you enjoy it?
Well, I enjoyed the attention I got from the other guys because everybody would make fun of me and say that I was gay, so I was kind of proving to them that I wasn’t—even though I really was, although I hadn’t ever really kissed a guy at that point. So, Lauren Buongiorno was my first light kiss, but it was more like an ‘I’ll show you I can get a girl, kind of thing.’ So I liked the attention I got for it, but I wouldn’t say that the kiss blew me away.
I don’t think it blew her away either, but what do you expect at 9 years old?
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