Marc Jacobs was born in New York City in 1963. He grew up in the town of Teaneck, New Jersey with his mother, sister and younger brother, attending Teaneck High School. Later on he switched to and graduated from New York’s High School of Art and Design.
At fifteen, he worked stocking the shelves at Charivari, a clothing boutique in New York City and perhaps it was this avant garde store that first piqued his interest in fashion.
Higher education led Jacobs to The New School for Design, he won the Perry Ellis Gold Thimble Award. This was during 1984, and in the same (highly productive!) year was also awarded the Chester Weinberg Gold Thimble Award and the Design Student of the Year Award. While still at The New School, Jacobs designed and sold his first range of hand-knit sweaters and he also designed his first collection for Reuben Thomas. This passion to produce and with excellence has been a hallmark of his career.
Following his studies, Jacobs began to design at Perry Ellis after its founder died. He gained some attention on the fashion scene after he designed a “grunge” collection for Perry Ellis that, although lauded by some critics, lead to his dismissal in 1993.
Concurrent with this period, Jacobs formed Jacobs Duffy Designs Inc with Robert Duffy, a company which is still going today. In 1986, he designed the first collection to bear his name on the label, then in 1987 Jacobs became the youngest designer to win the industry’s highest tribute, The Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent.
Jacobs and Duffy joined the women’s design unit of Tristan Russo in 1989. Jacobs also oversaw the design of the various women’s licensees. In 1992, the Council of Fashion Designers of America made it a double, honoring him with the Women’s Designer of the Year Award. By 1994 he had produced his first full collection of menswear.
Jacobs is a prominent fixture in the New York City celebrity scene, having become something of a celebrity himself. The audience for his fashion shows typically includes celebrities who obviously appreciate how most of his collections give nods to past fashions, from the 40s to the 80s.
Designer Oscar de la Renta has called Jacobs a “mere copyist”, but as New York Times critic Guy Trebay points out, “unlike the many brand-name designers who promote the illusion that their output results from a single prodigious creativity, Mr. Jacobs makes no pretense that fashion emerges full blown from the head of one solitary genius.”
Explaining his clothes, Jacobs has said “what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don’t look it…. My clothes are not hot. Never. Never.” Well, that may be true of his clothes, but looking at some other Jacobs creations it’s hard to see. His sunglasses for instance, are more often than not, pretty hot! Take the oval women’s 023s. The prominent red frames are more blaze than blush and the looped metal side arms could seem mismatched, but his feel for what’s right makes them work beautifully.
Jacobs has now been listed among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, and as creative head of Louis Vuitton his collaborations will raise the profiles of other designers too.