Perhaps it’s because my mother and two cousins have worked as models or perhaps it’s because I’m visually drawn to beauty but whatever the case may be, I’ve always had an undeniable love of fashion. On the surface, friends argue that I can’t call myself a feminist because, despite a limited budget as a graduate student that makes it an adoration from afar, I worship Chanel and luxury cosmetics. However, there are worse faux pas (being a feminist who actually considers Pretty Woman romantic, for example) and unlike the ads for Victoria’s Secret that seem to be designed only to titillate the male viewer, I’m fascinated by fashion as functional works of art designed to titillate oneself and serve as one of the most effective modes of nonverbal communication and self-expression.
"If we didn’t like fashion, we’d be naked," Louis Vuitton model Uma Thurman explains in the cinematic ocean of creativity and excitability that is director Loïc Prigent’s engrossing documentary Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton. Recently airing on the Sundance Channel to coincide with Fashion Week, the film which already hit Parisian shops back in September 2007 will be released for purchase on DVD next week here in the country that calls the New York offices of designer Marc Jacobs home.
Jacobs, one of the most artistically talented designers working in the world of haute couture today, gave unprecedented access to Prigent for this behind-the-runway look at the process of creation of new lines for both his own daring brand Marc Jacobs (that some state gave birth to grunge fashion) as well as his even higher end designs for the 154 year old Louis Vuitton label most famous for its luxury bags and luggage that have become “the most counterfeited bags in fashion history,” according to Elle Magazine. Taking “the brand beyond lustworthy luggage” (Elle), Jacobs who survives on a questionable diet of ceaseless cigarettes, protein bars, sugar snacks, health juices and vitamins while wearing vintage t-shirts celebrating American pop culture (from candies to Mickey Mouse to rock bands) finds inspiration everywhere and in collaborating with his staff, makes radical choices to iron flowers comprised of sandwich wrappers in creating Japanese doll-like headbands and bathing gorgeously intricate beadwork adorned dresses in bleach to give them the most “insane” appearance imaginable. “Insane,” to Jacobs is used in the best sense meaning unbelievably brilliant as the seamstresses whose hands have become living pincushions and workers struggle to keep up, fighting to stay awake on only an hour of sleep before big shows as they do last minute bag surgery, ribbon lacing, and color switching to keep the newest replacement motifs and designs in check.
While the models who strut down the catwalk make everything look so effortless, Prigent doesn’t hide the fact that behind their polished poise lies chaos and a breakneck schedule of roughly ninety runway shows for top models during fashion week whose frequent changes of hair and makeup styles lead to increased, painful sensitivity, allergies and reactions exacerbated by the physical agony of fittings standing in fifteen inch heels for hours on end, not to mention jetting off to Tokyo for a twenty-five hour flight for twenty-seven seconds of runway glory. However, the models, like the seamstresses, the craftsmen, and others in their “workshops gone wild” much like the brilliant Jacobs whose daring choices have garnered fans in high places such as Sofia Coppola, Uma Thurman, Catherine Deneuve, Wes Anderson, Marilyn Manson, and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour wouldn’t have it any other way.
Although the designs are sure to dazzle, the undeniable standout in the documented Vuitton show and the bag most quintessentially daring and indicative of Jacobs is hands-down the show-stopping collage bag that broke machines and frustrated seamstresses who stitched by hand several of the most famous Vuitton designs with only minutes to spare for its seconds-long debut in the Fashion Week collection show. And, for the curious, this particular bag in question will only be replicated roughly two dozen times for its signed limited edition that will run the privileged buyers 35,000 Euros. While, of course, most of the viewers like me can only see it and dream, we’re grateful for the unprecedented inside access to the world of Jacobs in Prigent’s wondrous documentary that seems like the pages of Vuitton ads in our favorite fashion magazines come to life complete with sass, style, sensuality and soul.