Marc Jacobs On His Relationship with Tech: "I Want to Have a Human Experience"

Marc Jacobs On His Relationship with Tech: "I Want to Have a Human Experience"

The designer (and self-described Luddite) made an unlikely appearance at SXSW where he took a moment to explain how he came to embrace social media—and how it can be used for good.

The designer (and self-described Luddite) made an unlikely appearance at SXSW where he took a moment to explain how he came to embrace social media—and how it can be used for good.

Text: GREG FOLEY

South by Southwest in Austin, TX is known for showcasing the “next big thing” in music, film, and tech. But with a growing emphasis on the “Interactive” portion of the festival—credited in years past as the launchpad for digital breakthroughs like Periscope and Twitter—it’s surprising that there’s an increasing focus on fashion in tech. Now, fashion designers are not new to SXSW. Two years ago, Nicola Formichetti keyed everyone into his habit of hiring new talent based on how well they curated their Instagram. In fact, there’s an entire topic track of programming dedicated to style. With an assortment of panels and presentations like “The Future of Luxury,” “Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Fashion,” and “The Future of Fashion: Products Born Digital,” panelists debated the question of how game-changing tech innovations might actually influence style and fashion.

In the middle of the wearables, responsive fabrics, and mobile beacon talk though, Marc Jacobs stood out, not only in his notoriety but in his ambivalent approach to tech. During his keynote, he described himself as a tech Luddite, and rejected many of the conference’s key themes. Connected retail? “I want to have a human experience.” In the past few years as SXSW panelists have been analyzing the key components of a compelling social feed, Jacobs had no social media presence to speak of. Fast forward to today—Marc Jacobs has over 700,000 followers on Instagram and has learned quite naturally how to craft a sense of intimacy online.

“It’s probably a little bit more about my ego than it is about marketing. I’m not sure that posting a picture of myself generates dollars. Maybe it makes me, to a certain group of people, more accessible and more human,” he says. “I was reading the last group of comments on the picture of me flying over here and somebody said 'It would mean the world to me if you said hello,' so I wrote hello back this person and then I sent the little kiss emoji and the heart emoji, and honestly I felt happy that I made somebody else happy. I think part of the joy or the beauty of social media is that, and there’s a downside to this too, obviously, but that you can affect people and people can feel a little bit more connected to you.”

While many SXSW attendees are already unpacking a world where Amazon Alexa can cool us down through voice-controlled, temperature regulated clothes (not a real thing…yet) and biometric skincare is on the horizon, Jacobs offered a refreshingly realistic approach to tech. Most of us—even SXSW attendees—are still #ludditeswholovetheinternet as Marc put it in his follow-up post on Instagram. We’re still on the fence about using Google Home, or what we think about VR and we may or may not own an Apple Watch. But the more primal relationship with tech that Marc illuminated—what to post, whether to buy a pair of shoes online or in a store and how much to share with the world are still very relevant. Through his self-proclaimed Luddite lens, he struck an honest note about tech, fashion, and design. It’s not just about the newest innovations but the way technology makes us feel and communicate every day.

Statement nail #1 and a bit of filler.

A post shared by Marc Jacobs (@themarcjacobs) on

Credits: Banner Image Photography Greg Foley

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