In Ariel Levy's profile of Marc Jacobs in this week's New Yorker, we see the designer as Ugly Duckling-turned -swan, shlumpy nebbish now chiseled hottie. In the past decade, Marc Jacobs has become a household name - a celebrity as known for his parade of relationships and struggles with substance abuse as for his stunning success for Louis Vuitton or his colonization of New York's West Village with his eponymous boutiques. But where he was once recognizable in the fashion world for being unkempt and bespectacled, now, as Levy puts it, "he looks like a cartoon super-hero: muscular, bronzed, shining with diamonds." It's kind of too bad that the most influential designer in America had to have such a conventional makeover.Jacobs openly courts his celeb status. "There is definitely part of me that just loves the idea that I'm the headline-I do get some weird thrill out of that," he said. "I'm human. I love attention. Actors don't go onstage because they don't want attention. If you show your art, if you show your fashion, that's also a very human thing, and, in terms of contemporary life and the twenty-first-century fascination with personalities, I like that I get out of that fashion-designer box and become, I don't know, personality box or celebrity box. I love that! It's fun." Jacobs' nightlife forays, the high-profile romances, the MySpace confessionals, have rendered him far more accessible than most fashion fixtures. Not to mention the ubiquity of his muses and purses. And Jacobs loves this recognition. As Levy puts it, "there is nothing he loves more than seeing his work woven into the culture...Jacobs also enjoys the idea that the brand is the product being sold" as opposed to the traditional view that fashion is an art form for the privileged few. Of course, fashion has always mirrored the idiosyncrasies of its icons; Karl Lagerfeld's imperious views of weight have fluctuated in accordance with his own poundage. But Vreeland, Chanel, Lagerfeld were a very different breed: they were Fashion people. They were set apart from the mainstream; when they were arbitrary and self-centered, the ripples were smaller and only served to increase the industry's reputation for vaguely absurd aloofness. "Marc Jacobs's brand of success is unapologetically less dignified," writes Levy, and as such, by bad luck but also by design, Jacobs does not have this luxury. He, more even than Lagerfeld, has consciously made himself a brand. As such, Marc Jacobs the product is influential, "as famous for what he means as for what he does". And this product - the new, made-over Marc Jacobs, homogenized and sleek, certainly healthier but also more conventional, is in some ways unfortunate. If a designer was going to have this kind of influence and recognizability, it was kind of cool that he could be a shleppy outsider with glasses. Now he's another perfect fashion-world creation, and because he's made this metamorphosis publicly, and because it's so dramatic, and because now he's a big celebrity - and not, incidentally, off drugs, which is a good thing! - that's what people ultimately take away from it. Physical perfection of a conventional nature is once again, by extension the ideal, the road to success and happiness. Enchanted [The New Yorker]
I don't agree that Marc's success is "less dignified" than Lagerfield and Chanel. I think the difference is that he's made himself more available and than other designers.
And I like that he's honest about enjoying the attention. It's human to want attention even though others may pretend to shun that attention.
I have mixed feelings about his makeover. It's personal even though he's a public person