You know that foreboding feeling you get when you arrive someplace and just know things aren’t right? That was very much the sense as people arrived to the Louis Vuitton show on this last day of Paris Fashion Week. Everyone woke to the speculation voiced by Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) that Marc Jacobs was leaving the label he has single-handedly turned into a retail giant. Sure, there had been rumors all month, but there are always rumors. WWD gave those rumors an embodiment, though, and no one at Louis Vuitton was talking. Reporters daring to ask were told that only questions regarding the spring/summer 2014 line would be answered.
Then, there was the set. An all-black backdrop amassed from previous shows: the water fountain, the carousel, the lift, the escalators, the hotel rooms, set on a runway of what appeared to be black moss. With a sound track that could easily be described as spooky, it was difficult not to feel a bit of a chill going up their spine.
When the first piece arrived down the elevator, onto the carousel then around the fountain, there was an audible gasp. Immense headdresses constructed of black dyed peacock feathers adorned the top of every model’s head. The black dress had laser cutouts at the waist, sequined detailing, and LV leggings underneath, a slight modification of a look we’ve seen before.
In fact, there really was no new fashion here. This was s retrospective of all that Jacobs has done over the past 16 years, 14 as creative director. In fact, there are a handful of pieces with the number 14 detailed on them; those are likely to become collectors items among the Louis Vuitton faithful.
The entire line was done in black, as was the very first collection Jacobs did for the brand. The only exception was a few instances of stonewashed denim. There were cropped jackets, sequined brocade, tassels, fringe, and a frequent use of epaulets that I really, really hope weren’t crow feathers, but they sure did look like it.
In his designer notes, Jacobs said this collection was dedicated to the showgirl in everyone, and then proceeded to list several famous ones. His homage came in the form of an almost nude model with the words “Louis Vuitton Paris” painted all over her body. One last piece of dramatic theatrics.
Jacobs also said this collection was about “feeling, not thinking, Connecting with something on a supeficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level.”
Immediately after the show, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault confirmed Jacobs’ departure. There were tears, backstage, in the lobby, in the parking lot, and, dare I say, all across Paris.
Without question, Marc Jacobs has connected with Louis Vuitton and its customers over the years, taking it from a strictly luxury luggage brand to a ready-to-wear empire. As the show ended and Jacobs came to take his final bows, it was Arnault who led the standing ovation, something we just don’t see that often in fashion circles (because everyone is in a hurry to get to their car ahead of traffic). The designer’s contribution to the label will not be forgotten.
As for what comes next, speculation is centering around former Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere. Keep in mind, though, that LVMH owns Marc Jacobs Intl. as well as the Louis Vuitton brand. While Jacobs is leaving the label, he’s not leaving the family. The corporation needs him to focus on the pending IPO for his eponymous label. Once he gets past that, which shouldn’t take more than two years, they may well want him back. So, this leaves us with the question as to whether LVMH will seek a permanent replacement who will make their own mark on the brand, or merely a substitute until Marc returns.
Two things are for sure: Marc Jacobs is not done and Louis Vuitton is no shrinking violet. Today may have been dark, but there will be plenty of sunshine coming in the near future.