Marc Jacobs and Katie Grand are among the fashion world’s most intriguing collaborators. The Daily sat down with the duo at Jacobs’ Soho studio to get to the heart of the matter.
First things first: Where and when did you two meet?
Katie Grand: At Hôtel Costes [in Paris] in 2001; there was a small dinner for Vuitton, which we didn’t realize.
A load of us showed up—my friends Giles Deacon, Charlotte Stockdale, Peter Copping. I can’t remember how the conversation started. A couple of years later, I started working on the men’s show at Vuitton and the advertising with Mert and Marcus.
Why do you think your dynamic works so well?
Katie: We have the same size feet.
Marc Jacobs: And we wear the same size clothes, so we swap outfits and can wear the same clothes from Prada. We both love Miuccia, we both love Miss Piggy, we have similar tastes in music, and we find a lot of the same people amusing and entertaining.
Katie: This process in the design studio is very intense, and the hours are long. There’s not much sleep, and if you don’t get on with the people you work with, it’s torture.
Thoughts on Miss Piggy and Kermit breaking up?
Marc: I’m not too bothered by it, as long as they’re both happy and healthy. Relationships come to an end.
Katie: Hopefully, there will be some brand-new Muppet characters. Kermit could have traded her in for a younger model.
Katie, your title is creative director at Marc Jacobs. What does that mean, exactly?
Katie: I’m here to help the situation. If Marc’s got a question, he can ask me, wherever we are in the world. If other people in the team need some direction or questions answered, I’m here.
Marc: Katie is involved in every aspect of communication in some way. She comes up with concepts for ads, she works with me on the concepts for the shows, she’s involved with as much as possible in the creative output here. The word “director” always feels like something very finite and rigid, but everyone is a contributor in different ways and degrees. If she’s not available to work on a shoot, I’ll ask her to recommend someone to style the shoot. When she can’t be here physically, she’s indirectly involved by giving her opinions. I don’t think of myself as a director or the boss. I’m ultimately a contributor who has to make the final decisions, like the edit for a show. I don’t do it alone. I come to the conclusion with the help of Katie and everybody who has done the work.
Do you ever disagree?
Marc: We do.
Katie: It will always be about something silly. When you get tired, you get snappy.
Marc: I apologize, and Katie says she’s not bothered by it. Sometimes they tease me about the calendar—they say I always kind of lose it on Monday, I’m okay on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, I come in like a hurricane.
What have been your most memorable experiences working together?
Katie: You remember the silly things, like the Josephine Baker Vuitton show. It was the first time that Marc got a karaoke machine, and it was nonstop show tunes for two and a half weeks. The Daniel Buren Spring 2013 collection show, which was choreographed so perfectly. It was just so beautiful, and it was the only time I ever cried at a show.
Marc: I remember I asked Katie if it was okay, and she said, “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Katie: It’s a collage of moments—the Victorian beach show at the Armory, where it was 100 degrees in the building. It was like a furnace. It was intense backstage, but it looked so good. I’m genuinely pretty optimistic about things. [Putting on a show] is a bit like twisting your ankle—you don’t remember the pain.
Marc: Though we do remember the moments where people fell through roofs.
Do you look back on anything with regret?
Katie: It’s fashion, so your opinion changes every season. Some seasons we’ve worked on where at the moment, I think it’s boring or wrong or the color palette is grotesque in a bad way, but then the next season you see it as grotesque in a good way.
Marc: It’s relative. I often watch a show afterward and if it’s gone well, I feel good about it and then over the next couple of days, I have this postpartum depression and see all the flaws. They become more and more elaborate in my mind. Other people might not be aware of them, but they ruin the whole thing for me. I’ve watched last season’s show and even weeks later, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. That’s very, very rare. You also know that you can’t repeat that. Last season went off quite flawlessly—there wasn’t a button unbuttoned or a shoelace untied, nobody was tripping, the girls were so perfect.
Katie: But you don’t know what went on backstage, which was that none of the outfits arrived in outfits. Bags and belts were missing. I ended up dressing every girl myself, because the dresser notes arrived late. It was a succession of tiny mistakes. When you’ve got a girl standing there in a G-string saying, “What am I wearing?” and you think, “F**king hell, I can’t actually remember!”
Marc: It was chaos backstage.
Katie: Usually there’s a dress that’s still being sewn while the girls are lined up. You have to keep the model calm. You can’t have her cry because her makeup will run. You try to make a joke of it, but secretly think, is she gonna get an outfit this time?
It’s all very theatrical. Did you ever work in costume design, Katie?
Katie: No, but I did used to act. I don’t know if Marc even knows that. I was on the stage in Birmingham, England. I played the daughter in Mary Poppins, and I was in Dick Whittington once.
Marc: I didn’t know that. Any videos?
Katie: No. I was 10 or 11 and couldn’t sing at all, and it was terribly embarrassing.
What about you, Marc?
Marc: I was in school productions, and my sleepaway camp productions of Yellow Submarine, South Pacific, and Hello, Dolly. Camp in every sense!
Would you ever do costume design for a Broadway show?
Marc: I would never say never, but it’s not something I ever dreamed of doing. I like doing what we do. I like making up our own play and characters. I did costumes for a ballet once, which was a very trying experience. I was excited by it and put a lot of effort into it. I’m not a control freak, but somehow it was quite frustrating, not being involved in the set or the choice of dancers and all that stuff.
How often are you in Paris these days?
Marc: I spend in total about four months of the year there. I have a house and office there.
What’s it like being responsible for only one show a season?
Marc: It’s twice as much work. Doing Vuitton and Marc Jacobs was very exhausting because of the back and forth, but now I’m much more involved in all aspects of this business. Ninety percent of the time I give more than 100 percent of my time and attention to what I’m focusing on, whether that’s fragrance or beauty or the clothes or the shoes or the bags. I’m trying so hard—we all are—to see how we combine Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc. I didn’t play such an active part in the Marc by Marc thing, and now that it’s being incorporated into the collection, I’m much more active in looking at all the details, from the labels to the product to what we’re making. It’s been much more work, honestly.
Is the cost going down?
Marc: No. We’ll never get it 100 percent right or close to perfect this season, but the idea is to have a wider range of prices. We’ll have the kinds of dresses that we’ve always had, but offer T-shirts and jeans, too. It’s not just about a range of prices—it’s taking one idea in a season and finding its authenticity in an evening gown that’s embroidered by Lesage or T-shirts that are embellished with a few trinkets. I’ve always liked the high and low thing. I love wearing a Prada fur coat over Adidas track pants and a Fruit of the Loom tank top and a pair of jazzy trainers. We’ll see how it plays out.
Should we expect to see T-shirts on the runway?
Marc: I don’t know yet. I like to think that even though things are fixed, something spontaneous happens when we start fitting the girls. There’s room for putting a T-shirt with a very expensive skirt if that’s what we feel like. Certain girls inspire you to do that.
Katie: It’s generally Hanne Gaby Odiele. We work with Jamie Bochert all the time, and she brings a lot of that, too. She pretty much looks cool in everything.
Marc: If you put it on the wrong girl where it isn’t believable, it looks sort of hokey.
What are you going to do about the stores on Bleecker Street?
Marc: As far as I know, everything is going to stay. I don’t have a master plan. There’s no rigid discussion about what each thing will be. We’re considering the possibilities, and then we’ll see.
Do you miss anything about the old Bleecker Street?
Marc: Why would I miss it?
Because it’s very different than it was 15 years ago.
Katie: The whole of New York is. We’ve been talking about this a lot.
Marc: I grew up here, and I’m very nostalgic about the old New York. I don’t see very much of New York that I know. I’ve had this conversation with Katie, Kim Hastreiter, Anna Sui, Steven Meisel, and many other people. We were down on Orchard Street months ago, and it just didn’t feel like there was anything left of that whole neighborhood. There’s not much about New York that looks like it used to. Walking [my dog] Neville on the High Line, the dogs aren’t allowed on the grass. I remember when there were trannies and drag queens and all the houses along the Pier. It’s just not there anymore. It’s not gritty or grimy or edgy or interesting. It’s very gentrified; everything’s very “keep off the grass” and clean. I remember when you’d go to Jackie 60 and smell the blood from the slaughterhouses and there were all those after-hours places. To answer your question, Bleecker Street, like every other street, is completely different.
Would you ever leave New York?
Marc: I don’t have any plans. I always feel lucky that I have Paris. I love that I get to go back and forth, and I appreciate New York so much more when I come back from Paris. When I leave New York, I’m quite happy to have that little break. New York can be very full-on. Even though it’s changed, it still feels like there’s so much to do here, even when you don’t actually do it.
Cher is in your Fall campaign and on the cover of Katie’s magazine, LOVE.
Marc: She hasn’t been on the cover of a magazine in ages, right?
Katie: I always went through phases of asking [Cher’s team], and it was one of those things where they said no, no discussion. We’d always ask.
How did Cher enter your orbit?
Marc: I’ve wanted to do something with Cher for ages. [Marc Jacobs publicist] Michael Ariano reached out to her this year, and she said yes. She agreed to be in the ads and accepted the invite to the Met Ball, and Katie talked to her about doing LOVE, and she was quite up for it. She was terrific.
Were you nervous that it wouldn’t come together?
Marc: We didn’t want to talk about it until it happened. There was a lot of back and forth. She needed to feel comfortable. Before we worked with Cher, we worked with Jessica Lange, who had never agreed to do a beauty campaign. As the time came closer, she wanted to make sure she had approval of the picture. Cher was very enthusiastic when she said yes. It was better not to count your chickens before they were hatched, because even though it would be disappointing, you knew that at some moment, it could fall apart.
Katie: There were no diva requirements.
Marc: It’s a long time since Cher was a fashion model for Diana Vreeland. When she’s onstage, it’s the Cher show, when you’re in a studio with a photographer doing an ad, which you haven’t done for a long time, people need their sense of security. It wasn’t a diva thing, it’s about being outside of that zone where you are most comfortable.
What kind of music does Cher listen to on set? Does she listen to Cher?
Marc: No, she does not.
Katie: David Sims tends to play David Bowie, which was hilarious when we photographed Iman. He didn’t notice, and then was mortified, but she loved it.
Marc, you’re quite the Instagrammer.
Marc: I love it! I was so against it. It happened during this whole Vreeland lovefest last season with her whims about being into something and then the following day, being completely over it. I was so adamant and outspoken about how people were antisocial because of social media. We were losing live experience. I was just dumbfounded and disappointed with how people were attached to their devices and not really looking at each other or spending time with each other physically. Then one morning during our last show, I thought, well, I’m going to embrace Instagram now. Then I got really into it.
Marc: We live in a world where visual stimulation seems to be, without question, the way people communicate. Privacy used to be important to people, but this is completely the opposite. I’ve written very long captions on Instagram and thought about them long and hard, but all the writing didn’t matter—people just responded to the image. They were moved by what they saw visually, and that’s very telling. People get pleasure by what stimulates them visually.
Do you feel like you’ve given up your privacy by being on Instagram?
Marc: I’ve never been a very private person. In fact, I’m probably the opposite. You can ask me anything and I’ll tell you. It’s not like I value my privacy.
Who do you follow?
Marc: Richard Habberley, Michel Gaubert, John Maybury, Bianca Del Rio; I like following a lot of the drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Then there are people you just meet. I have terrible insomnia, so sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep and I randomly comment to someone I don’t know. Last night, I was tagged in a picture of me and Lil’ Kim, so I regrammed it. The person was so grateful, but that opened up a whole dialogue of Lil Kim fans. People were fighting over Kim and Beyoncé, writing who they thought the Queen B was. I was so delighted and amused that I had created such a buzz!
Your gorgeous dog, Neville, is a huge Insta star now.
Marc: His Instagram is off the chain. He doesn’t really talk to me anymore! That’s really [my assistant] Nick Newbold, who is the genius behind Neville’s Instagram. He has a good time with it. Dogs, selfies, and food are extremely popular on Instagram.
And shirtless guys…
Marc: And girls with huge butts!
What did you do this summer?
Marc: I was on my roof a couple of times, but I’ve mostly been in the office. I don’t post too many pics from the office.
Katie: I went rock climbing. I quite like hanging off cliffs.
It takes your mind off. I didn’t have a wild summer. I just got a dog.
Does your dog have an Instagram account?
Katie: Yeah. It’s a little sad. It was my rabbit’s account and then it became the new rabbit’s account, but that rabbit is in quite a lot of trouble, so I thought it was good to move it on to the dog.
How do you two communicate?
Marc: Texts, pictures, or just talk. I’m very bad at communicating by telephone. I don’t feel like I’m making any sense, but in a text, I can put order into what I have to say or ask. A picture can be very clear. I get kind of choked up on the phone or feel like I haven’t made any sense.
Katie: The other day we were talking hair and makeup, and we literally sent the same reference back to each other. Out of all the images in the world.
Marc, how is Katie’s sense of humor?
Marc: She’s got a great sense of humor. She likes to laugh at things and be amused. She likes LOLZ.
It’s not held back; it comes when it comes. She has genuine amusement that’s very spontaneous.
Katie: Maybe I’m wrong, but I always think of Marc as being quite European. He understands the English sense of humor very well. Historically, there have always been quite a lot of English people in the studio. He understands sarcasm and irony. I don’t often think of that as an American trait.
Marc: It’s not. It’s more of a New York thing. I used to watch all these British sitcoms, like Fawlty Towers and Are You Being Served? Only five percent of New York got that British humor.
Katie: I was just thinking about Karlie, the unicorn.
Katie: Karlie Kloss had come in for a fitting years ago, and she was gorgeous and charming and very tall. For some reason Marc just pulled up [the YouTube clip] Charlie the Unicorn, which we watched incessantly that season and for us, it was Karlie, the unicorn. I’m sure most people we know wouldn’t find it that funny, but it amused us for about two weeks.
Marc: It’s very big for people who smoke pot, which I don’t. It’s an absolutely ridiculous little cartoon that’s very naively done, but I’ve watched it 200 times and I laugh so hard, I cry.
Where do you get your news from? Do you Google yourself?
Marc: I don’t. I look at Instagram. I receive news through other people. I’ve never watched the news. I live in a little bit of a bubble. Whatever is going on is what I need to deal with.
Do you read any fashion websites?
Marc: No. Unless something comes up that I’m interested in. I used to read Women’s Wear Daily when it was in the newspaper form because it was on my desk every morning, but now that it’s not in a newspaper, unless it’s printed out, I don’t look at it as much.
We hear you read The Daily during Fashion Week.
Marc: That’s always around.
Can’t wait to see the show!
Katie: Us too!