Marc Jacobs Honors Vivienne Westwood in his Spring 2023 Presentation

In a collection titled Heroes, Jacobs presented a collection full of punk-utilitarianism

Last night at the Park Avenue Armory, Marc Jacobs presented his Spring 2023 Collection in the almost pitch black space, lit by bare spotlights, with just a single row of chairs lining the runway. Violinist, Jennifer Koh, played Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach,” as the soundtrack for the collection titled Heroes — an homage to the late Vivienne Westwood. The show notes concluded with a quote from the British legend, “Fashion is life enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people.”


References to Westwood were most clearly asserted in the silhouettes throughout the collection; her bustles and bustiers have been refashioned into layers and layers of fabrics to create exaggerated forms of the body. For Westwood, the way that clothes were worn on the body were grounds for protest — the distortion of the figure is a form of rebellion, and the enhancement of the female body is an almost ironic reclamation. 

The colors of the collection are predominantly muted, save for a few sharp hues of neon yellow and firetruck red. In accordance with the muted color palette, the majority of the collection has been crafted out of materials that resemble military-style clothing, with quilted nylons, massive cargo pockets, and tarp-like swathes of fabric that have been draped into gowns. This tough, muted form of garments has resulted in a collection that is largely protective, utilitarian dressing. With a runway presentation that feels almost dystopian in its nature, there is the almost inherent question of, what does it mean? Is Jacobs using the runway to talk about the recession? Or perhaps the ever-evolving climate crisis? Or maybe even to speak to the crisis in Ukraine? 

Jacobs’ show notes leave us with an intentionally vague answer as to just the specific meaning, writing, “With a controlled abandon and driving frenetic energy we reflect upon life beyond the studio.” Perhaps Jacobs is concerned about the fear that comes with it all — life, that is. From the crises that populate the news all hours of the day to the loss of one of his own heroes and friends, this protective shield of clothing feels quite intimate, while simultaneously worldly.

What may be most impressive of Jacobs as a designer is the way in which he is able to capture such dismal themes while somehow maintaining a tempo of joy underneath the collection — Jacobs achieves this in the way that it feels as though he is enjoying himself while designing these clothes. Within the spirit of Jacobs, there is the chutzpah of a young broke designer picking up a utility jacket from the Army & Navy Store on Houston and Orchard to recreate into a contemporary concoction, with the refinement and eye of a master of his craft who has spent over forty years in the fashion industry.

There is still a large presence of Jacobs-isms present in the collection, from rhinestone embellishments atop of rough and tough dresses to polka dot covered, billowing gowns. Even when Jacobs has a clear message he is delivering, he is able to get across his sort of subverted idea of New York City luxury within his designs. For in the midst of a punk-utilitarianism based collection, Jacobs’ use of metallics, crushed velvets, and embellished sky-high boots still feel acutely relevant to the rest of the show. The Marc Jacobs woman is concerned with the world, and wants her style to convey said concern; yet she is also passionate about fabulosity. This is a dichotomy that Jacobs is an expert in.

Jacobs has used his runway as a way to honor Ms. Westwood, yes, yet a collection inspired by Westwood does not necessitate a departure in Jacobs’ own design language. This collection does not veer far from the core design principles that Jacobs has been creating, especially since the pandemic. Westwood’s influence is a part of the DNA of Marc Jacobs as a designer: she truly is one of his heroes. The way in which she distorted the female body has parallels to the way that Jacobs has engulfed his models in layers upon layers in his past several showings. Punk and androgynous haircuts and colors have become synonymous with both designers. The Kiki Boot feels absolutely relevant to the punk spirit of Westwood, yet at the same time it is a piece that is deeply ingrained in the Marc Jacobs line. 

Heroes, as a collection, serves as so many things; an ode to one of fashion’s greatest, a sign of the times in its reflectivity of society’s shift towards protective dressing, and a testament to Jacobs’ ability to reference fashion history while ultimately creating contemporary clothing. Jacobs understands the societal importance of the punks, a wave in fashion that was pioneered by Westwood. To watch a Marc Jacobs show is to feel inspired by clothing, New York City, and today, to feel inspired by the spirit of Westwood. Perhaps, Westwood plainly explained it best herself — how lovely, how generous.

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