Once upon a time, during fashion weeks far, far away, Marc Jacobs was a famous abuser of other people’s time.
His shows routinely started an hour or more late. People complained, but they stayed. His ability to put a finger to the wind and transform the prevailing mood into cloth was that convincing. Then, in 2007, a show began almost two hours after schedule. The audience rebelled, many walked out, and the next season, chastened, Mr. Jacobs became the poster child for promptness.
Until now, that is.
In the cavernous Park Avenue Armory, behind a curving screen of glass tiles separating the entrance from what lay beyond, he brought New York Fashion Week to an almost end with a return to form in more ways than one.
Two rows of plexiglass chairs flanked a long, plexi-covered wood runway. On them, Mr. Jacobs’s guests were arrayed like pearls on a string, expectant. Thirty minutes passed. Then an hour. People began to fidget.
“I heard someone saw them bringing in some sewing machines,” said one.
“The clothes haven’t arrived,” said another.
There were rumors Anna Wintour had left. Fake news! She was back. There was speculation that something was wrong. (There have been whispers about the health of the business for a while now.) There were conspiracy theories that Mr. Jacobs was delaying his first looks to get back at Rihanna, who had decided to unveil her answer to Victoria’s Secret, the Savage x Fenty lingerie show, after his show, even though he had claimed the honor of officially closing fashion week long ago. Someone said they were starting in 10. No, 20. Someone else passed around seeds to snack on.
Actually 90 minutes beyond call time, the show finally began. And just like that, an era in fashion we thought had long passed was back. So were its clothes.
A meditation on getting dressed, in the most traditional sense of the word — doing yourself up to face the day (or night) in a sparking, bulletproof carapace of beauty — it was like a tour through the twisty, feathered corridors of Mr. Jacobs’s memory room, each souvenir candy-colored and blown up to Instagram-visible proportions.
Whatever had been happening backstage while everyone was waiting for the show to go on, Mr. Jacobs had clearly been busy doing something.
Blouson satin trousers were tied at the waist with a giant satin rosette (rosettes were everywhere), ends streaming down one side, under a thin knit finished at the wrist and neck with exploding layers of Pierrot ruffles or paired with broad-shouldered mock-Chanel bouclé tweeds. A tartan drop-waist dress with sleeves as big as most torsos was multitiered and puffed out like a balloon. Flounced metallic lace evening numbers were topped by a mountain of frills.
There was chiffon and sequins and lamé, gloves and bags and sparkly tights and Grace Kelly scarves. (There was also Lee Radziwill and Barbra Streisand-in-the-60s hair, much of it dyed in faded Easter egg colors to match the clothes.) There were sling-back shoes with exaggerated, almost witchy, pointed toes. There were little veiled Ascot hats. There was longing for a lovelier time.
Hidden among all the muchness were plenty of things you could actually wear: skinny ribbed knits, swingy single-breasted coats, simple yoked skirts. But it was overwhelmed by what used to be defined as capitol-F Fashion.
The problem is, especially in this city, that definition is changing. There’s a revolution brewing. Subcultures are on the rise, with designers at the forefront of their expression, demanding their due. Their followers holler in joy, recognizing themselves for the first time. They aspire to relevance over elegance. They have the electricity of potential, and change.
By contrast, Mr. Jacobs’s show, like many other shows this week from the established names, was cast in an amber glow.