marc jacobs on his groundbreaking new ad campaign, america, and instagram

Now that his diffusion line has folded, the designer has more energy to create and share on social media.

by Laura Vogel
07 February 2016, 8:28pm

A shot from Marc Jacobs's Instagram, taken while shooting his spring 2016 campaign, featuring Bette Midler and her daughter, Sophie van Halsberg.

Recently, the usually reclusive Marc Jacobs conducted an in-depth interview with The Business of FashionIn it, he talks about shutting down his Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line, how his vision of America has informed his new work, and the power of Instagram.

It's almost been a year since Marc Jacobs folded his contemporary-priced line. Though it was a tough decision, it saved a lot of bureaucratic and management effort on the part of the designer. No longer would Jacobs need two teams, nor duplicate stores, shows, and ads. 

Speaking of which, Jacobs has — rightfully — garnered a lot of attention for his bold and colorful spring 2016 campaign, shot by David Sims, and using the designer's own personal posse as models. (Including Dan "Milk" Donigan, a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race that Jacobs was smitten with at first sight.)

The people who appear as models in the whimsical new campaign are an extension of the longstanding Marc Jacobs brand. "I started looking at pictures that I did over the years with Juergen [Teller] and how we started with the advertising. We didn't really have money to shoot an ad campaign," Jacobs says. "But Kim Gordon, who was and is a friend of mine, was performing and she was wearing one of my dresses. I asked Juergen if he would go around and photograph her on stage and he did. I thought that it would be a nice thing to do with David [Sims]: bring in the people who were a part of the Marc Jacobs family. People who have inspired me creatively and people who were somehow connected to the work that we do."

Sandra Bernhard in Marc Jacobs's spring 2016 campaign, courtesy Marc Jacobs

Jacobs's fall campaign included luminaries like Sofia Coppola, Cher, Winona Ryder, artists Rachel Feinstein and John Currin, and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. "The campaign was about the people that inspire us," says Jacobs. "I didn't want to let go of that. There are still plenty of people around that we didn't get to shoot the first season." This time around, he recruited famous pals like Bette Midler and Sandra Bernhard.

The same-sex marriage legalization last year inspired Jacobs's "Americana"-heavy spring 2016 collection. He saw many of his friends on Instagram celebrating what's great about our country, and out came the red, white, and blue. Jacobs says, "I began thinking about what my America was, but in a very loose way. I was overwhelmed by these feelings and the idea of equality and it brought me back to Lana's speech." Lana is Lana Wachowski, co-director of The Matrix and a transgender legend. Her speech, upon winning Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award, in 2012, was powerfully moving to the designer. Jacobs says, "I've watched it probably, without exaggeration, 150 times."

Backstage at the shoot for the Marc Jacobs spring 2016 campaign, courtesy Marc Jacobs

"This season's ad campaign represents a series of connected events; a visual narrative. It is a personal diary of people who have and continue to inspire me and open my mind to different ways of seeing and thinking," he wrote in an Instagram caption showing Wachowski modeling some of his spring wares. "The spectrum of individuals photographed in our spring/summer 2016 ad campaign represent a celebration of my America."

Clearly, Jacobs is a convert to the cult of Instagram, joining in March of 2015. He recognizes the value of broadcasting his own message directly, bypassing the press. "When I started my personal account, I thought I needed to share personal stuff," he said. "Whether it was at lunch at home with a friend, or my personal story of how I met these people and why they're inspiring to me, as opposed to a company press release or leaking an ad." The designer got a lot of attention for his frankly sexual and intimate posts, and got trounced in the press. This made him step away from the platform for awhile.

"But then, I learned a lot from Instagram," says Jacobs, who soon learned to temper his posts a bit, and he fell on love with it all over again. "I started following people that are my friends. I don't get to see a lot of the people I'm friendly with because we are in different places at different times. Me, mostly in this office. Them, wherever they are. And I kind of like the attention. It's not why I do what I do, but it's part of why I do it. I like seeing that, all of the sudden, you post a picture of yourself lying on the couch with your dog and there are 10,000 likes. I enjoy it."

Milk appears in Marc Jacobs's spring 2016 campaign, courtesy Marc Jacobs


Text Laura Vogel
Images courtesy Marc Jacobs

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