Paris Fashion Week: Marc Jacobs leaves Louis Vuitton to focus on his own brand after emotional show
Designer leaves fashion house to focus on his brand with inspiring final collection
Marc Jacobs shows his Louis Vuitton collections in the Cour Carrée of the Louvre, once the seat of power for France's Bourbon monarchs. Which is very appropriate, because Vuitton is French fashion royalty. And a Louis, to boot.
This season it felt especially apt, given the mood of Paris. Revolution was in the air - the swirling intrigues, barbed comments and daggered glances cloaked in exquisite clothes, have a Choderlos de Laclos quality to them. The tricoteuses were only off the street because they were knitting sweaters for Chanel.
Said intrigues concerned themselves with Jacobs' seat of power at Vuitton, and the rumours that, after sixteen years, he was stepping down from LV to focus on his eponymous brand - a brand that launched a beauty range earlier this year, and is set for imminent IPO.
Backstage after the show, those rumours became fact. The 10-year contracts of both Jacobs, 50, and his his long-time business partner Robert Duffy, 58, expiring at the end of this year, will not be renewed. They are leaving Louis Vuitton to focus on the expansion of the Marc Jacobs brand.
Jacobs was the first fashion designer to create clothing under the Louis Vuitton brand. Installed as designer in 1997, following the high-profile appointments of Alexander McQueen at Givenchy and John Galliano at Dior, Jacobs outlasted both. His 16 year tenure as creative director of Louis Vuitton is bettered only by Karl Lagerfeld's forty-eight years at Fendi, and thirty years at Chanel.
Born to a non-orthodox Jewish family in New York in 1963 - his father, a William Morris Agent, died when he was seven - Marc Jacobs had a passion for fashion and a lust to succeed from an early age. He launched his label in 1984 while still a student at Parsons School of Design when a range of sweaters he created were snapped up by the New York boutique, Charivari, launching him on a fashion career. Robert Duffy - who worked alongside him at Vuitton - was with him from the start, the two forming Jacobs Duffy Designs Inc. He showed his first eponymous collection in 1986.
Jacobs' career has never been short of controversy. The furore over Kate Moss smoking a cigarette on the winter 2011 Vuitton catwalk pales in comparison to his 1992 “Grung” collection for Perry Ellis. Inspired by the music of Nirvana and the style of Courtney Love, the collection launched a thousand imitations. It also got Jacobs fired.
Jacobs' tenure at Louis Vuitton has been smoother. It's also been paved with gold: for the past six consecutive years (2006–2012) Louis Vuitton has been named the world's most valuable luxury brand. It rakes in £5.8 billion per year.
It's also transformed Jacobs himself into a fashion megastar. A 2008 New Yorker profile relayed that market research at a Midwestern mall showed American shoppers recognised the Marc Jacobs name, although their perceptions of him were somewhat confused. Most thought he was an actor or a rock star.
The focus on Jacobs' own label, which continues to be part of Bernard Arnault's LVMH stable (the luxury goods conglomerate who own Louis Vuitton, amongst others), is canny. Despite its success, Vuitton maintains a position at the very highest echelon of luxury, with no lower-priced lines or cosmetics. Marc Jacobs, by contrast, has beauty and highly-successful fragrances, as well as his diffusion line Marc by Marc Jacobs. Earlier this year, the British designer Luella Bartley was tapped to direct those collections.
All indications are that Marc Jacobs is an empire complex. His stepping down from Louis Vuitton is an acknowledgement, perhaps, that his own name is a strong enough brand, both creatively and commercially, to demand his full attentions. LVMH must also agree.
Fashion fans, however, will doubtless miss his high-profile Louis Vuitton shows, the traditional finale to Paris Fashion Week.
His successor at Louis Vuitton is expected to be announced shortly. If those intrigues are once again proven correct, it will be Nicolas Ghesquière, the much-feted Frenchman who headed Balenciaga until October 2012.
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