Marc Jacobs's Swans in Wonderland

Wonder – Marc Jacobs so titled his show on Friday evening at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. He nailed it, channeling his unwavering creative audacity into a collection that radiated sweet allure.

That compelling dichotomy–guts and charm–has long underscored Jacobs’ work. Hard to believe, but this year, the man who burst to instant fame out of Parsons in 1984 after a stunning student show is marking his brand’s 40th anniversary–40 years of greatness that continues to awe. If memory serves, he’s approaching this milestone more poignantly, or at least more publicly, than he did other zero-year marks, his 20th and 30th.

He gives the moment ample attention on Instagram, and in his show notes, waxed both positive and contemplative: “My love for the commonplace is a constant and meaningful lifelong affair…My glass remains full of wonder and reflection…We abstract and exaggerate…in our desire to express something naive and elegant.”

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A look from the Marc Jacobs Spring 2024 show. Nina Westervelt - Getty Images

Of course, there is nothing commonplace to Jacobs’ approach to fashion, whether as a cultural component or as his life’s work. His every step is intensely considered–every silhouette, every fabric choice, the placement of every seam.

He brilliantly shapes his typical jumble of references not into any linear order but in often-incongruous intersections that, sprung from the kinetic machinations of his creative mind, make perfect sense. Here, he deftly fused two wildly different notes: everyone’s favorite divas du jour, the Swans and paper dolls. The former came in the clothes’ mid-century baseline and hairstylist Duffy’s cloud-like, spherical coiffeurs, and the latter, in amply cut, structured silhouettes that stood away from the body as the models walked the length of the armory.

marc jacobs rtw spring 2024 ambiance
A look from the Marc Jacobs Spring 2024 show. Nina Westervelt - Getty Images

That cavernous expanse contained spare, provocative appointments–Jacobs’ now standard single rows of chairs, one on each side of the vast armory floor, and a sculpture by the late Robert Therrien, on loan from the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Therrien created outsized sculptures based on everyday objects. Jacobs borrowed the artist’s huge take on the most utilitarian of furniture items–a folding card table and four chairs.

The table served as an offbeat, austere pergola from under which the models emerged; its scale offered what proved to be an obvious clue about the clothes. They were big. Not in a sloppy where’s-the-body sense, but in the sense of sizing that didn’t quite fit–that paper-doll effect–or little girls playing dress-up but with a make-believe aura, as if Alice in Wonderland had tumbled down her rabbit hole in the mid-1960s wearing something ultra-chic pilfered from her mother’s closet.

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Looks from the Marc Jacobs Spring 2024 show.Nina Westervelt - Getty Images

The clothes looked impeccably crafted–precise, structured suits, coats and LBDs. Skirt waistbands and sweetheart bodices stood away from the body, inner constructions holding them in place. For a more casual note, wide pants were paired with colorful sweaters, their sleeves shifted forward from the shoulder, for an appearance of immobility. Jacobs digressed from his mid-century base with a cheeky cropped hoodie-and-panties riff on the velour tracksuit. Evening was all aglow, with dresses bedecked with multicolored jewels or giant mirrored paillettes. And remember the Venetia Bag? It’s back in all its snappy, high-function glory, but now super-sized up to weekender status.

It all radiated polished charm, with a whimsy that feels so welcomed right now. Across his long, complicated, brilliant career, with many turns of fortune, Jacobs has lost not a drop of his deep belief in fashion’s power to speak to the moment, and the heart–or of his ability to do so. Wonder–indeed.

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