Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier
Styled by Katie Grand
Over the years, Katie Grand has bought herself a fair amount of Marc Jacobs womenswear. Her collection now stretched to several rails of clothes and boxes of shoes, big enough, Jacobs reckons, to rival his brand’s own archive. By curious coincidence, both Jacobs and Grand are not dissimilar sizes. So when it came to finding a model for this very personal Marc Jacobs retrospective, who better than the man himself?
Black wool hat (worn throughout), autumn/winter 2007; Pink flower necklace, spring/summer 2011; Lace monogram fan by Louis Vuitton, spring/summer 2011; Mens’ black shirt (worn throughout) by Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs’ own.
Burgundy sunglasses, spring/summer 2011; Purple cotton coat, spring/summer 2002; Brown clutch bag, spring/summer 2011; Mary Jane shoes, autumn/winter 2001. Grey stockings by Prada
Dark blue lurex skirt, spring/summer 2009; multi-coloured wedges, spring/summer 2011
Necklace, autumn/winter 2007; Blue wide leg trousers, spring/summer 2002; Glitter platform sandals, spring/summer 2011
Marc pulled on one of the coats, put his hand in the pocket and found a Louis Vuitton Murakami phone charm that I must have been carrying the last time I wore it. He gave me a funny look and said, “I’m actually wearing your clothes. This feels a bit weird.” - Katie Grand
Blue and black sequined skirt, autumn/winter 2005; Mary Janes, autumn/winter 2011
Pale multicoloured coat with fur collar and gold buttons, fall/winter 2004; Black shirt by Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs’ own; Leopard-print pony skin court shoes, fall/winter 2006; Black felt and knitted wool hat with brimmed detail, fall/winter 2007. Grey stockings by Prada. Black briefs, Marc Jacobs’ own
Mauve waistcoat and matching A-line skirt, spring/summer 2002; Burgundy shoulder bag, spring/summer 2011; Mary Jane shoes, autumn/winter 2001
Tweed jacket and matching skirt, spring/summer 2003
Hair by Ashley Javier for Kerastase; Make-Up by Ozzy Salvatierra; Manicure by Honey; Set Design by Stefan Beckman; Fashion Assistants Sari Zoe Rozins and Alexandra Horton; Shot at Patrick Demarchelier Studio
The designer driving the big brand that’s making America dress better
Written by Erik Torstensson
Portrait by Tom Allen
There are plenty of high street brands trying to persuade us that they’re design-led these days. But J. Crew is the only chain whose aesthetic is deemed high-end enough by Net-a-Porter to be worthy of inclusion on its list of designer names. It’s a dramatic turnaround for a company that 10 years ago was saddled with a reputation for being an unremarkable catalogue brand. Jenna Lyons remembers the bad old days, having joined J. Crew in 1990 as a lowly design assistant on men’s knitwear. ‘I’ve worked for every single department,’ she says. ‘I’ve done swim. I’ve done lingerie. Sweaters. Shoes. Sunglasses. Bags. I’ve been involved in every aspect of the business.’ It was the label’s egalitarian affordability that had attracted her in the first place, but the creative aspect of her work suffered after a private equity firm took over in 1997 and commerciality became the only priority. ‘When I started I really loved being here but slowly things went downhill. I was loyal and I wanted it to get better. I didn’t realise how bad it actually was until Mickey arrived.’
Mickey Drexler came in from Gap as J. Crew’s CEO in 2003 and quickly recognised the talent the Parsons-trained designer, who was in heading up womenswear at the time. ‘Mickey went through the rail and asked my opinion on the collection. He held up a pair of stretch pants: “What do you think of this?” I said, “I don’t really like it, but I think it’ll make a lot of money.” And he said, “Throw it on the floor.” Next. “What’s this?” “It’s a poodle sweater that we’ve been running.” “What do you think of it?” “I hate it with all of my life… but it’s a million-dollar piece.” “Throw it on the floor.” At the end of the meeting, half the line was on the floor.’ This little bonfire of the banalities cleared the way for a new-look J. Crew. ‘We pulled a team together, did some sketches, went vintage shopping and got on a plane to Hong Kong to redo the line all over again!’
Even before Lyons was invited to give her creativity free rein, one factor that stood in J. Crew’s favour was its humble mail-order roots: this meant its distribution structure was already in place as the rest of the high street rushed to migrate online. Now Lyons is very much the face of the brand on the J. Crew site, with her ‘Jenna’s Picks’ page guiding the customer through how to assemble a look that she would wear herself. Not that J. Crew’s etail operation has eclipsed the importance of its catalogue, whose reach remains immense: published 14 times a year under Lyons’s supervision, three million issues are mailed out each month. ‘We see a dramatic uptake in sales when the catalogue goes out. It’s a sort of a magazine for the customer; it allows us to reinvent J. Crew every month. That’s where the creativity and the fun comes in because so few brands can do this. I mean, how many brands get to do five women’s photoshoot stories without any advertising?’
She also oversees the interiors of its 229 stores, all within the US; outside of Net-a-Porter, J. Crew’s reach is not yet international, although that may change next year. She’s careful not to grow the brand too quickly, focusing on taking it up-market before breaking it in new markets. She launched the pricier J. Crew Collection in 2007, a line that has included such artisanal pieces as a $2,000 dress decorated with hand-cut sequins in a limited edition of eight. Then there’s the innovative J. Crew ads in which models are shown with products from other brands too (their websites are even generously included); and the Liquor Store, a J. Crew menswear flagship converted from an old Tribeca off-licence, more unique concept store than identikit chain. All in the name of making J. Crew creatively credible while keeping its appeal as broad (and its prices as low) as possible. ‘I want my mum to be able to wear the clothes. I want to be able to wear the clothes and I want the girls from Harper’s Bazaar to wear them. How you do that? It’s hard.’ Hard maybe, but Lyons appears to be succeeding.
The production team that brought you Alexander McQueen’s legendary shows can take the most implausible brief and get things moving
Founded in 2000 out of a desire pick their own clients, create their own schedules and play by their own rules, Sam Gainsbury and Anna Whiting’s company has become a cornerstone of innovative fashion production. With Sam working on the creative concepts and Anna as the ‘realist’ who brings them to life, they can pull together production teams from across all creative fields, thanks to the diverse background they share in film, art, theatre and music. This gives them a clear advantage over the competition, and was the reason why McQueen chose them to realise his shows: he didn’t want a generic fashion approach to staging his collections. It also leaves them better equipped to facilitate the fashion industry’s current fascination with moving image. Indeed, last year they decided to go back to their moving-image roots and set up a film division, Gainsbury & Whiting Associates, which now represents the pioneers of fashion film, including Steven Klein (whose ‘Alejandro’ video they produced), Nick Knight, Sam Taylor Wood and Ruth Hogben.
Written by Rana Toofanian
Photographed by Ben Weller
Your shows with McQueen really pushed the standard of innovative show production, creating an expectation for other brands to stage bigger or more provocative presentations…
S: When we first started producing Lee’s shows, I was aware he was quite unique and for me, he continued to remain unique as his shows were so deeply connected to his collections. They were never just about bringing in an interesting backdrop or collaborating with an artist for its own sake. Lee’s showmanship was about wanting the audience to feel something. Whether they were shocked, repelled or impressed, he wanted to solicit a reaction from them. He consciously designed those shows to make people think — not to be the ‘enfant terrible’ that he was always made out to be.
A lot of your work involves masterminding ‘creative solutions’ or problem-solving. How do you trust that the solution will always arrive?
S: Because there is a solution to everything. Sometimes clients don’t want to know the solution but you have to give it to them! If you are telling someone they have to make a certain compromise, you have to offer them an alternative that doesn’t make them feel like they’re being compromised.
A: It’s about having a lateral approach and knowing that the formulaic way of achieving something isn’t always the only way you can get there.
Is an elaborate show still the best way for a designer to market his or her brand?
S: If I were a young designer now, I would definitely choose to do a film. It’s not only more relevant but I’d want to spend the smallest amount possible too. It’s a huge amount of money to do the smallest show, even in a crappy warehouse with no heating and a couple of seats. On the other hand, if you’re an established house, you want people to see the craftsmanship of your clothing and you don’t want to get rid of that piece of history: all these people meeting in a city to watch your show. Ultimately, there’s a place for the fashion show and the fashion film — they’re not mutually exclusive and should work alongside one another.
What’s the value of the show for the consumer?
S: Exclusivity. It’s the enigma of the designer and all these people they’ve heard about — Anna Wintour or Suzy Menkes — on the front row in Paris, the fashion capital of world. All the glamour people associate with fashion is the reason why they go into H&M to buy themselves a jumper that looks like something off the runway.
Are films the best way to present fashion now?
S: Film is more instant. You can put a film out whenever, so you have time to do post-production and can choose whether to put it out instantly or hold it until the collection is in stores. I’m quite cynical about fashion film. Everybody has jumped on the fashion film bandwagon, but there are only a few fashion photographers doing film who are actually any good, who are able to translate their aesthetic and keep their signature in the films they create — like Nick Knight or Steven Klein.
A: They understand fashion too…
S: Big film directors tend to be asked to shoot campaigns and fragrances, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it creates a competitive edge, but they don’t necessarily understand fashion. Unless you really love fashion, you can’t portray it well. We’ve worked in film and we know that the film industry can be very patronising about fashion. Whenever we employ directors of photography from film, all they do is sit around and laugh all day at the frivolity, going: “Why are there so many Diptyque candles on this set?”(laughs)
A: It’s funny looking back, because I actually remember most of the references from directors doing commercials or music videos we produced coming from fashion.
S: It was always the work of people like Nick, Steven, David Sims or Corinne Day. That’s exactly who they referenced-stroke-ripped off.
What excites you about fashion film?
S: Like in the early days of fashion photography, there are no rules for the new generation of photographers and directors coming through doing fashion film. It’s ground zero and they’re making up the rules as they go along. In the film industry, there are all these really strict rules about the sacrilege of not shooting in film and the editing process. A lot of film photographers and editors working in fashion film are self-taught; they’ve learnt how to use the cameras and technology themselves, which I think makes the whole genre more exciting. There’s a b-roll on every shoot now, which is in a way ridiculous because it’s just someone shooting the hair and make-up department, a little bit of the photographer, a shot of the moodboard and some music. That’s not a fashion film. Nick basically came up with that process. Showstudio has been presenting fashion in really interesting ways, and they’ve encapsulated that into the b-roll: a behind-the-scenes Max-Factor ad for luxury brands! People want to click on and see what goes on behind the scenes, but that’s not really an honest interpretation of it — it’s just as fake as the final image!
Do you think there’s been an overall decline in creativity in fashion?
A: It’s more difficult to be seen because now we can all pick up our camera or our phone and make something if we choose to, which means sifting through it all to see the talent.
The Antwerp graphic designer turned experimental make-up artist has been head of Chanel’s cosmetics division for three years now and already he’s had a string of hits on the make-up counter. His Trompe l’Oeil temporary tattoos were the perfect fusion of his propensity for dark, youth culture references in his early days and Chanel’s status at the summit of maquillage de luxe. And then of course there are those nail varnishes…
Written by Murray Healy
Portrait by Willy Vanderperre
‘Sometimes it seems like all I do is nail polish,’ says Peter Philips. ‘I hope people don’t forget we actually do a lot of things. We’ve got amazing lipsticks, great eye shadows…’ And here they are, lined up across the Chanel cosmetics studio, in racks and drawers and boxes: hundreds of bottles, powder palettes and pencils of various colours, hits of the past and the present, and the future too (most of the products Philips is working on at the moment won’t reach the counter for another two years). But it’s his nail varnishes that are the big story at the moment, their success an index of the creative lead Philips has taken on the industry since he became the global creative director of Chanel make-up three years ago. His biggest hits so far have been the minty pistachio of Jade in autumn 2009, the peculiar putty of Particulière in spring 2010, and the breezy turquoise of Nouvelle Vague last summer. All three have resonated with the make-up-buying public in unexpected and mania-inducing ways, becoming endlessly blogged, shifting on eBay for silly money and sending other cosmetics brands rushing to catch up with copycat colours. Philips has managed to elevated nail polish to an echelon of desirability usually occupied by bags and shoes: a pop-culture phenomenon.
Particulière was a colour whose popularity no one could have predicted. Its light frequency seemed to buzz on the border between boldness and beigeness; a bizarrely aggressive magnolia, it was not an obvious contender for colour of the season. As Philips says, ‘No marketing team could have come up with that shade.’ Luckily, he explains, at Chanel he has the freedom to follow his own instincts rather than marketing directives, so he is allowed to take risks with products like Particulière, whose creation he describes, almost apologetically, as ‘a bit of an accident’. ‘I’d wanted a taupe,’ says Philips, who always speaks with such enthusiasm that he rattles through his sentences like the clappers. ‘I’d given the team some shades as examples, and what they produced was something in between. I said, “It’s very particular, this shade” — that’s where the name comes from. I didn’t know whether I liked it or hated it. I could totally see it in a Steven Klein shoot for Italian Vogue, but I couldn’t see it working on the counter. But then my girls here saw it and were like “Oh!!” (pulls an expression of delight). I thought, OK, I’ll put it in the collection with a pink and a beige, something a bit more commercial. But this one was the commercial success. It’s really weird. I just follow my heart. And then this monster.’
Yesterday, Peter caught an article in Marie-Claire that made him laugh, showcasing eight glittery purplish nail colours. ‘It said, “The new It shade of the season is Chanel’s Paradoxelle. Of course, you won’t be able to get it because it’ll already be sold out, so here are the alternatives.” I’m like, “OK, I suppose this is a compliment…”’ But just to reiterate, it’s not just nail polish. In fact, the scope of Philips’ work for Chanel isn’t limited to just make-up either. Take Trompe l’Oeil, his collection of temporary tattoos based on vintage Chanel jewellery. It was the perfect fusion of the two distinct aesthetic universes that Chanel and Philips represent: the classic Parisian house crossed with the street-inspired Belgian make-up artist, who forged his reputation over a decade ago alongside Willy Vanderperre and Olivier Rizzo, painting tattoos and skulls (and a Mickey Mouse that will haunt Philips forever) onto boys’ faces. Trompe l’Oeil was first mooted several years ago, Philips explains. ‘Karl said to me, “I might want to do something with tattoos for my show.” I said, “Perfect, right up my alley.”’ Philips set about preparing a production line ready for when the right collection might come along — spring/summer 2010, as it turned out. ‘Marie Antoinette was an inspiration, yet it was kind of rebellious: short skirts and presented in a barn like they’d been shagging in the hay. I thought, perfect, classic jewellery as tattoos — it’s the same kind of contradiction.’ The models walked out with the tattoos traced onto wrists, necks, and thighs. By the time the tattoo kits hit the stores at the end of February 2010, there were already over 3,500 names on the waiting list.
Although most of the time he’s busy with his 24-month schedule for his main Chanel make-up lines — the products that will sit long-term on the counter — Philips will always factor in time for smaller projects and last-minute ideas too. For the re-opening of Chanel’s SoHo store this autumn, he fancied rustling up a small, limited-edition range inspired by New York, all soft pinks and steely shades: ‘kinda aggressive but feminine at the same time,’ he explains. ‘Because if you want to survive in that city you have to be tough, but as a girl you have to use your charms too.’ And Lagerfeld will often want new colours for collections. Indeed, when I meet him three weeks before the spring/summer 2011 RTW show, Philips is brandishing a sketch from the designer, to which he has spent the weekend stapling swatches of various colours and finishes that his team are now endeavouring to match in make-up form. ‘I see Karl a lot — we do six shows a year, and I do lots of shoots with him. We’ll just chat about ideas. It’s never a formal meeting; there’s never a big marketing committee. This is a creative process.’
The media hoo-ha that met Stefano Tonchi’s move to W in the latter part of 2010 demonstrated two things: (a) that editors in chief of fashion titles really do enjoy mainstream celebrity status these days; and (b) that the combination of the magazine and Tonchi is an irresistibly powerful package. Which is why, to whispers of ‘the new Anna Wintour!’, a gaggle of cameras and microphones shadowed his every move at the September shows. Expectations were high for this highly respected editor, whose career in publishing began at the tender age of 17 when he created a homemade music publication (he describes it as a ‘pseudo-magazine’) with a school friend. In his twenties he set up a Face-like style magazine in Florence which he edited and art directed called Westuff, and in the late Nineties contributed to the renaissance of Esquire as its fashion creative director. During his revolutionary spell at the New York Times he launched a batch of new titles, including the highly regarded T magazine in 2004, as well as its award-winning online companion site. Hopes are high that he can bring the same revitalising energy to W.
Written by Elizabeth von Guttman
and Alexia Niedzielski
Portrait by Alex Salinas
Not a lot of people know this, but at one point in the mid-Nineties you were the creative director of J. Crew. How did that come about?
Yes, that was an interesting in-between experience. When I moved to the States, I wanted to learn as much as possible about mainstream America. I think if you come to this country, you have to experience the mass-market, and you know, you cannot be any more ‘Americana’ than J. Crew; I don’t even think Ralph Lauren was more ‘Americana’ than J. Crew. I had always worked on niche publications, like Italian Vogue ande, magazines which had the best photographers and writers but that were really meant for insiders and had a certain kind of snobbery. So, in coming to America, I tried not to have that attitude. At the time, Emily Woods was taking the company over from her father, who founded J. Crew. She was moving the brand in a new direction and she talked about the catalogues as if they were books or magazines, which she wanted to have a more editorial perspective.
Is it something you want to re-explore, working with a brand in the future?
I’m not sure — you never know where you will end up or where life will take you. At J. Crew, I never had any involvement in designing the clothes, that’s something that I have no interest in. I’ve been an editor, fashion editor and a stylist but unlike some other editors or stylists, I’ve never thought I was a designer. Just because you like clothes or you wear them well, it doesn’t mean that you are good designer; there are enough designers out there.
There’s been a lot of attention over your move to W. Was it difficult to leave T after creating a bit of a family there?
It was difficult. I created this group of magazines at the New York Times and they were really my little babies, my creatures. I had put together a team of people I really enjoyed spending time with and I think there was a certain kind of joy in the magazine and website that was apparent to the reader. At the end, it was also something I created for myself and not for somebody else, in terms of who the reader was and that’s always a good way to start, especially if you want to live a happy life.
Your move to W was so widely documented. It seems like the world has never had such a curiosity about the fashion industry. What do you make of that?
Fashion has never been as popular as it is today and that’s mainly because as a business it has become so powerful. There are such large budgets involved now and brands can really influence the way people think and behave. Some fashion designers are more influential than film directors or musicians but they don’t realise it. Tom Ford has had an incredible influence on society through his fashion. He thinks now he is a real artist because he is a film director, but actually he did something very serious as a fashion designer, not just through his clothes but through his campaigns and his conduct. He really pushed the boundaries; he was out there and he made that kind of ‘double-sexuality’ accepted, as well as bringing back a love of modernism. At the same time, it looks like fashion is becoming less and less creative. That’s kind of the contradiction: as fashion becomes more and more popular, it’s less creative because there is really less space for strange or original ideas in such a large system. I think it’s probably a growing crisis. It’s not just that designers today are less creative than they used to be — the environment is less creative.
Who do you think are now the most creative designers out there?
I like people who do their own thing and stick to it. I like Raf Simons very much. His work is very conceptual and considered: the idea comes before the clothes. I love Miuccia Prada; when you think about how big Prada is, how many stores they have but they still keep us interested in what they do and they take risks. And then you have Nicolas Ghesquière, Stefano Pilati, Alber Elbaz — they’re all very interesting designers with their own point of view.
There are so many shows at fashion week now, and you’ve said that you don’t think there should be as many. Do you think brands will continue to show collections in this traditional way?
I think they’re going to use more plat-forms. Still, the experience is unique — it’s an experience that you live and you hear and you touch and you sweat. We still go to the fashion show because the experience you get there really cannot be substituted by looking at pictures on a website. But I do think there are too many and some are really unnecessary. I think there should only be shows when there is something to show. And then you do a lot of technical presentations that are really for buyers and the people who are there to sell the clothes, and then you have a lot of other kind of events that can focus on special areas of the production. To have four full shows a year is ridiculous I think. At the same time, they should do as many showroom presentations as they need — that’s not the problem. It’s business. They have to put new stuff in the stores, because going to the stores is part of the entertainment experience. I mean, it’s what young people see as a form of sport, somehow.