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But such sarcasm aside, the observation has merit. Jacobs indeed set out to de-prissify his approach, finding inspiration in Violet, the glum teen heroine of the cartoon film “The Incredibles” and Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.” Folding in doses of Saint Laurent (to the chagrin of some) and Yohji, and a soupçon of Ellis Island, he had the making of a fashion controversy, and a major change of direction. Although he has been on a phenomenal spree for some time, he has felt personal pressure to move on from his ultraluxe, slightly ironic lady-like look. He tried once before and failed — his fall ’03 Courrèges fling — but the itch remained, and he was determined to break away this season.
In merch terms, the primary news was volume amped up to the max. Yet there was much more to the message than big skirts in weighty fabrics. This show offered a darker, broodier world view than anything Jacobs has proposed in years, yet clung to a hopeful romance. And though the designer is fond of saying that, “In the end, the [collections are] all about grunge,” this one flaunted mega renaissance at every turn.
It also reflected the broadening of Jacobs’ perspective in Paris, and his ongoing friendships with women such as Sofia Coppola, Rachel Feinstein and Elizabeth Paxton. “These are not Gucci girls,” he said. “A group of us went out dancing in Paris one night, and Sofia wore a Lanvin gown and flat shoes. The look is a little do-it-yourself, not too sophisticated or show-offy.”
But surely there’s more than one way to show off. “No question, I felt a certain confidence I didn’t have before,” Jacobs said. “I had conviction about this collection. Even doing the looks with Venetia [Scott], I felt very sure of what I wanted.”
Even the show’s most ardent critics might be persuaded in the showroom. Sure, some skirts sported a clunk factor, only the artsiest editors will call in the clown smocks, and flashy, zillion-dollar chevron minks have limited potential. But step right up for the coats, the little jackets and spiffy cropped pants, the amazing cashmere sweaters covered in lace. And how about the fabulous jeune fille eveningwear, especially dresses in red and burgundy velvet? As for the accessories, with the mouse shoe now a classic, Jacobs’ myriad flats, some done up with rosettes, look like clear winners, as does the major expansion of the handbag line, now on view in the showroom.