In the THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, everyone goes ape shit over the new Marc Jacobs bag. You don’t get any hauter than this designer, who cranks out both his own top-notch line and Louis Vuitton’s. But unlike the monster bitch played by Meryl Streep in the hit fashion-themed flick, this fashion wunderkind is charming, intelligent, humble, amusing and down-to-earth. So obviously, he and I have nothing whatsoever in common! He doesn’t do many interviews and even turned down Oprah’s first request, so I was thrilled that Marc consented to take a break from his hectic preparations for the fall fashion shows to chat avec moi (that’s classy French-talk!) from his Paris office.
B: I'd like to start to start off with a fascinating rumor that's been circulating for years--that you bought transsexual NYC door girl Connie Fleming’s breast implants as a present for her.
B: What? Did I? I don't know.
B: I just love the idea of designer breasts!
M: I love the idea of it, too. I'm pretty generous to my friends and I don't remember Connie ever asking me to pay for her tits. But Connie did stay in my apartment a lot and take of my dog when I was away. I don't know if I paid her for it or just gave her money. That part of my life is a bit fuzzy because I was a little out of it in those days. But it's very possible. You should really ask her because I'm sure she'd tell you if I did.
THE DELICIOUS CONNIE FLEMING AKA THE CONNIE GIRL
B: Well, Marc here's why I'm asking: I need a double chin removable.
M: I'm sure we can work something out.
B: How much time do you spend in Paris vs London?
M: It's pretty much 50/50. I'm back and forth all the time.
B: Do you the Marc Jacobs stuff here or there--how do you split that up?
M: I do some of it in NY with my team in NY and some of it here, like the knitwear, the shoes and the bags. We do those fittings here. but it all overlaps because no matter where I am I'm always working on a little bit of everything.
B: How do you separate which design goes to Marc Jacobs an which to Louis Vuitton? If you have a really great idea do you give it to Louis or keep it for your own line?
M: I'ts not really that difficult. When my partner Robert Duffy and I put together the groups of people that work here at Vuitton or my team in NY, they are people that have like aesthetics--we're sort of similar and different. We all have some of the same ideas but they end up completely different. Like if I love the color red one season and they love it Vuitton too, we both do it, but in one place it may become a red bag and in another place it may become a red sweater. Or if we all love the idea of tight, long skirts, they just never look the same. I might shove a couple of ill-fitting crinolines underneath mine or they may do that. So even if the ideas are similar in the beginning, they manifest themselves differently.
B: You're now doing home furnishings, children's clothes, dog clothes, when do you run out of ideas?
M: Again, it's not just me. I'm really lucky that I work with such a great group of people. And I'm not like an egomaniacal control freak, so if someone comes in and says it "Oh it would be cute to do this " and I think it would and I'm (laughs) having I'm goo day) then I say "Yeah, let's go for it. And Robert works on creating all these small, less expensive things for the store and people love them--everything from swim caps to motorcycle helmets to surfboards. I come in and say we should do the cashmere sweaters for dogs and children just becuase while we're at the factory doing them we might as well do them for other creatures, too. And then somebody picked up on the fact that we were doing that and a children's wear company called and asked if we'd do a children's range inspired by Marc Jacobs. So then we brought in another designer with more expertise in the children's wear area and she's so into what we do that it]. So we put something out there in a small way and then if there's a reaction to it, we get in the kind of necessary reinforcement and help to push it forward.
B: Well speaking of forward, what's coming up? What's hot? Genre readers are mostly slutty gay males and I'm sure that they're all delighted by the snug-fitting trousers that are so in for a season or two.
M: I don't think I do too well in the Adonis gay world or in the slutty female world either, because we don't make really trashy, slutty, sexy vulgar show-it-all clothes. It's actually more like the opposite. I LOVE that they may be underneath, but I don't like it overtly shown. It's never really been my taste to show it all off, but I do like stripping down those layers and finding it underneath.
B: Tell me about your new Hausfrau chic--my mom never knew she was so au courant ! Do you show those with the white Keds sneakers with no laces like she use to wear to Kmart?
M: No, we show them with worn-down oxfords. But I find beauty in imperfection. I don't mean to sound pretentious or anything, but I just think--I know it sounds really corny but that's the way I am--I like people and their personalities. I think clothes are great and they're really great for dress up and you can do and be whatever you want through clothes. But what I find aesthetically interesting is always something imperfect or something that the world doesn't necessarily look at as something to aspire to. I'm not about making aspirational fashion where like you'll woo a millionaire in this dress, or guys will be tripping over themselves. at the gym if you wear these shorts. That's just not my thinking. I just think the sweet guy in the corner whose drawers are droopy and doesn't have the right sneakers on and doesn't know where Chelsea i is much cooler.
B: Tell me about your Al Gore t-shirt--are you a big Gore supporter?
M: Actually, I’m kind of a go-along politician with Robert. I’m definitely a democrat and would love to see a democrat in office, but Robert is a big Al Gore and Hillary Clinton supporter. Robert’s in charge of the statements we make in the windows in our West Village store. We can’t stand the Bush guy.
B: I was really shocked to see Hollywood A-lister Faye Dunaway on a short-lived reality/competition show The Starlet. And then I was watching Project Runway and I noticed that well-respected designers Michael Kors and Kate Spade were judges. Is that something you ever see yourself doing?
M: No, I would never do it. In fact, I was approached. I can’t be a judge, I can’t be a bitchy queen—
Well that’s what they want. And Michael Kors sure can be!
M: I’m pretty TV shy. Well, not shy, but I pick and choose really carefully. I don’t have the time or patience and I don’t want to be cruel to people—it’s just unnecessary. If it makes entertaining viewing, then fine.. But let somebody else do it. I’m not about puffing myself up at somebody else’s expense emotionally.
B: Broadway shows now star sitcom actors and fashion mags have Jennifer Aniston on the cover, who in my opinion is neither beautifulnor elegant. Is that a symptom of fashion’s being dumbed down like everything else?
M: I always find that there’s an irony and a perversity to all this. When I look at some of the magazines and see The Star—it’s not like that in Paris. In the states people are completely glued to their television sets. If any of those actresses tears her dress or has toilet paper hanging out of her leggings or whatever, they just go completely insane. What they’re wearing? Where they got it from? Who’s their stylist? I think it’s all the same.
I prefer to see fashion’s unique characters on magaine covers. Like Alex Wek, who is certainly not girl-next-door pretty (unless you live in Africa) but who’s extremely elegant than Jennifer. But I guess the flip side is that this makes fashion more accessible to the masses if rap stars are name-checking high fashion designers.
M: I think it spreads the word faster. When you have something on a celebrity people do notice it, so more people learn your name. And that’s great. But I think the magazines put celebrities on the cover because it sells more issues—it’s really that fundamental.
B: But when a celebrity cover model for Vogue isn’t even chic—
M: It doesn’t matter. When people say “Sex sells”, It doesn’t have to be good sex.. Sex sells whether it’s good or bad. Good sex may sell more.
B: So that’s where I went wrong with my ill-fated career in prostitution!
M: A really great actress who is elegant may sell some issues, but Jessica Simpson may sell the most because she’s pop culture and many people will buy anything with her face on it. I’m not putting her down, I’m just saying that it has nothing to do with their performance or their intellect or their style or
B: Speaking of celebrity models, Li’l Kim—
M: Who I love…
B: She’s from the hood but she seems so sweet. Have you been in touch and heard any tales from the slammer?
M: Yeah! I wrote her every couple of weeks and she wrote me back. She sendt me two beautiful drawings that she did with the sweetest notes. In the first letter she told me about playing volleyball and the inmates were so great to her. They made her a high heel stiletto-shaped cake out of Jolly Rancher candies and Oreo cookies. So apparently they were all loving her in there.
B: (Thinking) I’ll bet they did!
M: An she was very gung ho on making her volleyball team the #1 team in the prison. She was in good spirits, but she also wrote to me an said how hard it was dealing with her family life and professional life while she was in there. But she’s out now. She’s really smart and she’s really talented. I love people who are kind of fearless andjust have a voice and say what they want to say.
B: Did you get to design anything in the Louis Vuitton/Mariah Carey video?
M: Everything in that video was Louis Vuitton. That was really, really exciting. Mariah was here in Paris and I got to meet her for the first time—I’m a huge fan. The storyboard for the video was that she wanted to be in the Vuitton store shopping and indulging herself. I went over to her hotel room just to meet her while they were doing fittings. They shot it in Paris all day and all night for a couple of nights and then they went to LA because I guess Snoop couldn’t make it.
B: Maybe for the same reason he can’t go back to England.
M: I get so excited to meet these people. It’s like a different world. I do listen to their music at work and it does keep me energized all day. So it’s great to meet your heroes.
B: Is Mariah cool?
M: Such a sweetheart. She’s so lovely. Again, I’m not the type to say something bad about someone even if I didn’t like them, but I wouldn’t go on about how sweet they are if I didn’t like them. She was great—absolutely lovely. Also, I don’t really meet people when they’re in their divadom/abusive mode. If they have those moods, they don’t show it to me. Kim’s been sweet, Mariah, and when I worked with Jennifer Lopez, all the bullshit about how she carries on—she was so not like that with me or any of the people from our crew.
B: As long as you all arrived in white cars, wearing white and holding freesia-scented white candles in each hand. I just purchased your entire line of Louis Vuitton bags...on Canal Street! I’m kidding! Any thoughts on counterfeiting?
M: Well, there’s my line and the company line. Obviously, Vuitton is a billion dollar company and they don’t believe in counterfeiting—it’s illegal. So they do everything they can to protect their logos and the bags we create. But some of it does get by..like the stuff on Canal Street.
B: Do you think it might even spread Vuitton’s appeal as status symbols? The originals are not going to be paraded through lower income neighborhoods too often, so it almost creates a demand.
M: What I told you before is the company line. I feel that the reason it’s being copied is that there’s such a huge demand for it. And a lot of people cannot afford to buy a Vuitton bag, which aren’t produced in mass quantities like the counterfeits. For me and my design team, it’s flattering that we’ve had an idea that so many people want that it’s being copied. So on a design level it’s flattering. Again, I think this is just logic: any woman who can afford to buy a real Vuitton bag is going to buy a counterfeit one because it’s less expensive. And I don’t think anyone who buys a counterfeit bag because it’s less expensive…if she had the money she’d opt for the real thing. It’s not like you’re on your way to Louis Vuitton and decided you’d just go an get it at Canal Street because I on’t think you’d be satisfied with a fake if the real thing is what you wanted. If I wanted a Rolls Royce I wouldn’t be satisfied with a Volkswagen that looked like a Rolls Royce.
B: Do you think snobby types think “Everyone has one—these are too common. I guess that’s why you have a new season twice a year!
M: Everything is copied. The Marc Jacobs bags are knocked off. Balenciaga, everything Gucci, Fendi, and Chloe does. Going back to your thing about celebrities. If some celebrity goes to a supermarket and she’s carrying a certain bag, then there’s going to be a huge part of the population that wants to carry that same bag or one that looks like it, to the supermarket.
B: Did you design that beautiful white background bag with the colored letters?
M: Yeah. I worked with a Japanese artist named Kashi Morakame (sp?) and we created that together.
B: It was stunning! I’d like a caftan in it, size 22, with matching accessories and luggage delivered to my…Hello Marc? Marc? You still there?