It was a moment of trademark Marc Jacobs transcendent dorkiness: bringing the Penn State Nittany Lions marching band out on the runway to play Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the start of his show last week. The nervous majorette caught her baton, the band danced with effusive nerd abandon, and afterward they all joined the likes of Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst at Cipriani 23rd Street, where, conspicuous in their plasticky blue-and-white uniforms, they certainly stuck out in the chic crowd. But they didn’t seem to care. They formed a conga line and downed Red Bulls, since they weren’t allowed to drink. “We’re in uniform,” explained Christina Parko, a 21-year-old trumpet player, still atwitter over the fact that “Jimmy Fallon was sitting right in front of me” while she was playing on the runway. “I didn’t say hi to him, but we made eye contact!” And, since the theme of the party was “Marc Jacobs Loves Lil’ Kim,” they got to see her rap for one of the last times before she went to jail.
The band wasn’t paid. “It was viewed as a field trip,” says Karen Walk, administrative assistant to the school’s band director. They’d been contacted in late August after some of Jacobs’s staff found them on the Internet. “Marc said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a marching band?’ ” says Robert Duffy, Jacobs’s business partner. “It made sense, given the inspiration for the collection was a prom.” Penn State’s band was large enough and willing. “And we liked their uniforms,” Duffy adds. Ten days before the show, the band recruited 95 members for the trip. They only had one rehearsal, on Sunday, when the majorette kept dropping her baton. Jacobs’s people told her not to throw it in Monday’s show, but she did so anyway.
By the after-party, though, all lingering pre-show anxiety had faded. “I’ve never been to anything like this,” said John Knowles, 20, a trumpet player. “The party’s awesome, especially that video—I love that,” he added, as a replay of the band’s performance flashed onscreen. But because of field-trip stipulations, he and his bandmates had to return to Penn State that evening and left at midnight to pile into the buses for the four-and-a-half-hour ride home. “We wanted them to stay later,” says Duffy, “but they had a curfew.”