Lost and Found

Photo: Ryan McGinley

I love a blouse that’s dumb,” says Marc Jacobs five weeks before his spring 2006 fashion show. Today he’s interested in proms (“all American ceremonies, really”), a funny black bow from a brown vintage dress, Rufus Wainwright, Scout Niblett, and gabardine. “I love to use the word dumb. It’s not knowing, and the word blouse is so out of fashion that I love it—a blouse that’s dumb. And gabardine. That’s what people need to be wearing right now.”


“I don’t know.”

He says it again, wrinkling his brow for emphasis.


When Marc Jacobs is in New York, he starts his mornings early, with toast and jam at the Mercer Hotel (where he stays when he’s here; he lives most of the year in Paris), followed by sessions with a therapist uptown. By four o’clock, he’s wired on caffeine (endless Diet Cokes, emptied into endless plastic cups of ice) and nicotine. On this particular Friday, he’s made a trip to a costume shop, and he’s had a computer lesson on his new Mac from the “kids” in his design studio—first order of business: Google “Rufus Wainwright,” for no particular purpose—and now he’s in his office, sitting beneath a watercolor by Elizabeth Peyton of Sofia Coppola in a green sundress. He’s explaining the appeal of his clothes, which is not unlike the warble of Wainwright, whose album plays in the background: complicated and offbeat. So offbeat, Jacobs insists, that his clothes could never be quite as popular as clothes by Tom Ford or Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein.

“It’s more psychological,” Jacobs says. “For people that don’t have any interest in the psychology of nuance, who need everything to be in their face, who don’t want to analyze … those aren’t the people I romanticize about dressing.”

It’s a version of fashion that dictates that when Gisele Bündchen is booked for a fashion show, a certain amount of consideration be given to unsexing the sexpot. “We always say, ‘Gisele’s so hot, how do we break her down?’ ” (Dumb, blouse, and gabardine, along with frumpy, dowdy, and fucked up, are Jacobs’s favorite words.)

“I don’t have any problem with what people refer to as sexy clothes,” Jacobs says. “I mean, everybody likes sex. The world would be a better place if people just engaged in sex and didn’t worry about it. But what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don’t look it. Curiosity about sex is much more interesting to me than domination. Like, Britney and Paris and Pamela might be someone’s definition of sexy, but they’re not mine. My clothes are not hot. Never. Never.

“When I first went to Vuitton, I spent so much time comparing myself to Tom Ford, and Gucci was, like, this sexy thing. You needed no explanation.”

Jacobs’s clothes do, sometimes, require explanation, as well as a healthy sense of irony. With the wrong attitude, the wrong body, and without the right wink, wearing Marc Jacobs clothes could leave a girl looking a bit like Mrs. Doubtfire.

“More people understand what Tom does. It’s so basic, and that’s not a put-down,” Jacobs says. “I think that’s so incredibly smart and focused, but it’s exactly what I shy away from. There’s a first-degree no-brainer definition of what’s sexy, but the reality of it is, what I find more interesting is someone who is more introverted or mysterious. When we have done sexy, I have thought of clichés like, Oh, she’s the bad Connecticut housewife, or She’s like Mrs. Robinson. I’ve got plenty of sexual female icons, but it’s not overt. It’s not an Über-woman, it’s not a power-hungry vicious man-eater. Youth to me is the most beautiful and sexy thing, really. I’m by no means a pedophile, but there’s a purity to youth. There’s an experimental side, there’s a curiosity. All that is more intriguing to me than knowing, headstrong, oozing sexuality.”

Jacobs looks younger than 42—maybe it’s just the way he’s dressed, or his trendy plastic eyeglass frames; maybe it’s the way he sits in his chair, casually leaning over and stretching, yawning, and squirming in his seat. The icons he offers are of a nostalgic sort: camp counselors, teachers. He evokes that feeling of being a lost teenager—which, of course, Jacobs was. There’s a certain Spielbergian mythmaking at work with Jacobs’s style, a yearning for the uncomfortable suburban comfort of an American kid in the seventies. “What’s comfortable to me is familiarity,” he says. “Comfort has nothing to do with the size of the garment. I do find something quite comfortable and charming in a too-narrow shoulder, a sleeve that’s too short or too long, a pant that’s too high or too low, hems that are trod on. I like romantic allusions to the past: what the babysitter wore, what the art teacher wore, what I wore during my experimental days in fashion when I was going to the Mudd Club and wanted to be a New Wave kid or a punk kid but was really a poseur. It’s the awkwardness of posing and feeling like I was in, but I never was in. Awkwardness gives me great comfort. I’ve never been cool, but I’ve felt cool. I’ve been in the cool place, but I wasn’t really cool—I was trying to pass for hip or cool. It’s the awkwardness that’s nice.”

Jacobs at work in his Spring Street studio.Photo: Ryan McGinley

Jacobs is still awkward, but somehow his awkwardness has made him the coolest of cool kids. In the great high school of the adult world, Jacobs is the gifted artist who suddenly makes the football star look like a milquetoast. He’s the guy who knows about bands and writers and artists before everyone else, with exactly the kind of self-destructive streak that drives everyone around him to adopt a protective stance.

In 1997, LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault hired Jacobs, along with his longtime business partner, Robert Duffy, to be creative director at Louis Vuitton, while also underwriting Jacobs’s own eponymous empire. Jacobs’s early tenure at LVMH was legendarily rocky—a tale of simultaneous success and excess. A patron like Arnault was what he’d always wanted. Still, Jacobs had a colossal fear of failure, as well as a deep ambivalence about finding himself on the inside of a culture he’d always coolly critiqued from a booth at a downtown rock show. “It was almost like he wanted the whole thing to disappear because it was just so much,” says his close friend Anna Sui.

He lived as hard as was possible for the creative head of a multi-billion-dollar fashion house, with cocaine and alcohol bingeing nightly. Finally, in 1999, Duffy and other friends persuaded Jacobs to go to rehab. He’s been clean now—if you don’t count nicotine and caffeine—for six years.

Jacobs is responsible for men’s and women’s collections at Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and the lower-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs label. Which means eight full-scale runway productions a year, not to mention the shoes, the bags, the gardenia-scented perfume. There’s a Marc Jacobs home collection, and plans for an even less-expensive collection, too. There are sixteen Marc Jacobs stores open now, with four more set to open soon (Moscow! Dubai! The Palais Royal in Paris!). It’s hard to name another American designer working today who’s as influential as Jacobs. In 1997, prior to Jacobs’s hire, Louis Vuitton’s revenues were $1.2 billion. Last year, they were $3.5 billion—thanks, in part, to Jacobs’s collaboration with Takashi Murakami (pop updates—luscious red cherries, neon logos—on the classic Vuitton pattern), which sold $300 million in handbags. In 2005, Marc Jacobs International has done about $400 million in sales.

There’s a strict line in Jacobs’s mind separating the Marc Jacobs woman from the woman who is very Vuitton. It’s the difference between being a siren and being shy, between finished and fucked-up. It’s the girls he relates to versus those who frighten him a bit—those Tom Ford girls. One need look no further than the company’s two ad campaigns to understand this split personality: Marc Jacobs ads are shot by Juergen Teller and are bleached out, grungy, un-retouched. They feature arty girls who cover up: Sofia Coppola, Rachel Feinstein, Winona Ryder. Vuitton ads are slick and brown, as if brushed with a heavy dose of self-tanner and then aggressively shellacked. They star international sex bombs like Jennifer Lopez and Uma Thurman. It’s hard to believe that the creative head who let loose Cindy Sherman with a makeup box for his eponymous line could find himself buffing J.Lo for Louis Vuitton.

Regarding Bernard Arnault, Jacobs says, “In so many ways, I’ve always felt like this little boy trying to please a father.”

Duffy lowers his voice and narrows his shoulders when he speaks of the ultimate Marc Jacobs muse. “She’s not a wallflower, exactly,” he says, but close to it. Or she’d like people to think she is, in her $4,000 dress and artfully mussed hair. Vuitton is all “hot starlet, homes all over the place, candy shell,” while the Marc Jacobs “girl” (and they always say “girl”) “is not going to suffer. She’s like, ‘I bought a nice dress, and I’m going to wear it tonight.’ She’s the awkward little sister.”

It makes sense that Jacobs has settled on Sofia Coppola as his muse. He brings her up a lot, and always with awe. He even, however slightly, pigeons his toes. To Jacobs, the 34-year-old Oscar-winning director, with her flat chest and skinny legs, is “young and sweet and innocent and beautiful. The epitome of this girl I fantasize of.”

Coppola may be Jacobs’s fantasy girl, but the most important person in his life, through thick and thin—and there have been plenty of earthquakes—is Robert Duffy. He’s part business partner, part brother, part father figure, part soul mate. Jacobs and Duffy met at a dinner thrown by Parsons School of Design, Jacobs’s alma mater, in 1984. “Love”—business love, that is—Duffy says, “at first sight.” Eight years older than Jacobs, Duffy is contained in every way that Jacobs is not: He’s tall, slim, and fastidious, but still happy to slide his feet out of flip-flops and wander his office barefoot. He was looking for a creative partner at the time, and something about Jacobs’s take on fashion clicked with him. “I was taking really expensive cashmere sweaters and shrinking them in the wash,” says Duffy. “I mean, I always thought that someone would pay for that kind of thing.”

Jacobs dressed as a polar bear with Sofia Coppola at his Art Deco Glitter Ball at the Rainbow Room in 2003.Photo: Patrick McMullan

And so did Jacobs. The belief that united them was that no one was making high fashion for young, cool people. And so they launched Jacobs Duffy Designs, Inc. out of a small studio in the garment district, while Jacobs consulted for other brands (Iceberg, Kashiyama) to make money. Almost immediately, Jacobs’s aesthetic struck a chord with people in the fashion industry. He made expensive clothes look super-casual (those shrunken cashmere sweaters were priced at $1,200), which, for the time, was particularly novel. What kept Jacobs and Duffy afloat was the support of key people: Anna Wintour, for example, and the buying teams at Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s, which both began placing big orders. Models like Naomi, Christy, Linda would walk his runway for free.

But when it came to selling the clothes, they were plagued with the kind of disasters common to young, poorly financed companies: late deliveries, thefts, fires.

Somehow, Jacobs and Duffy decided to stick it out. “It better have happened,” says Duffy about his success. “There has never been one moment when I thought we would fail. So now it’s our moment and all I can say is, this better have happened. This is really, finally, our moment.”

In 1986, the designer Perry Ellis died, and that company’s attempts to promote two in-house assistants to the top design job proved disastrous. In 1988, acting on fashion-industry buzz, Perry Ellis hired Jacobs as creative director, and Duffy as president. Finally, they had the money and infrastructure they’d been dying for, even if it meant designing under another name.

It was hardly a smooth ride: Jacobs finally got what he wanted, and he was mortified; the fear fueled a bad drug habit and, as Jacobs puts it, “an awful lot of drinking.”

However afraid of failure, he never played it safe design-wise, exploring the ideas that have since become his signature: looking backward for inspiration, a sense of irony and wit, and the tendency—so familiar now, so remarkable then—to represent street clothes on the runway. Jacobs was in love with rock and roll—“the throwaway attitude of it,” says Anna Sui—and that was there, too.

In 1992, Jacobs showed a landmark collection, one that people still marvel over thirteen years later. Jacobs was into grunge, and he decided to put it on the runway: flannel shirts, thermals (his reimagined in cashmere, a Jacobs signature to this day), Doc Martens, layers and layers, all of it topped with a little crocheted skullcap.

The press was smitten. The powers at Perry Ellis, however, were not. Jacobs and Duffy were fired shortly thereafter—the executives weren’t convinced women would pay a lot of money for clothes that looked, as Jacobs has always been so fond of describing things, “a little fucked-up.”

Jacobs and Duffy rented a store on Mercer Street but couldn’t afford to do anything but leave it empty—and both were approached nonstop with job offers. “The best advice I ever got was that we should stay together,” Duffy says. He mortgaged his house for a second time. “Marc would’ve, too,” Duffy says, “but he didn’t have a house. We just kept thinking, This is how our friends dress, and we can’t be that crazy.”

The call came in 1996: Jacobs was in Italy working on the Iceberg collection, and Duffy picked up the phone to find Bernard Arnault on the line. He was in a wildly acquisitive mode: matchmaking hip designers to old French houses—he had John Galliano at Dior, Alexander McQueen at Givenchy, Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe.

Arnault wanted to meet Jacobs and Duffy, to see their clothes. “I didn’t even bother telling Marc about it at first,” Duffy says. But soon the two were flown to Paris, where Arnault brought up the top jobs at Christian Dior and Givenchy. “We didn’t want to have to follow another designer; we’d done that at Perry Ellis,” Duffy explains. Duffy suggested Louis Vuitton, which, though internationally famous for its handbags, had no ready-to-wear.

Negotiations lasted eighteen months. Arnault at first didn’t want Duffy, and he didn’t always want to finance Jacobs’s own line. But without backing for the Marc Jacobs label, Jacobs and Duffy weren’t interested. Eventually, Arnault agreed to cough up a relatively small amount. “It was like they said, ‘Let’s just do this to shut them up,’ ” Duffy says. LVMH put up the money ($140,000) needed to open the Mercer Street store and produce the clothes and a few shows. LVMH now owns 96 percent of Marc Jacobs International, the holding company, and has a one-third stake in the trademark.

It hasn’t been an easy relationship. Duffy has often clashed with the Marc Jacobs CEOs installed by LVMH, and as a result they have been replaced almost annually. And as Duffy and Jacobs struggled constantly to keep up LVMH’s interest and cash flow in Marc Jacobs, they also complained that their personal salaries (under a million each) were way too low.

Clockwise from top left: Jacobs with models at a 1985 party; Kristen McMemeny and Kate Moss in Jacobs's 1992 "grunge" collection; a Murakami bag; a dark angel from Jacobs's fall 2005 collection; polish at Vuitton, 2005.Photo: Clockwise from top left: Patrick McMullan; Courtesy of Marc Jacobs; Courtesy of Louis Vuitton; First View (2)

Their contract renewal, finally signed in 2004, took a year to hammer out. But this time, thanks to their phenomenal sales, they had leverage, and mass global expansion is well under way. And Jacobs is behaving himself: He used to speak openly, on the record, about how difficult life was with Arnault. Now, when he mentions Arnault, he refers to him as a distant and demanding father, but one who’s started to reward Jacobs for good behavior: dinner with Isabelle Huppert, for example, and, of course, more and more money for Marc Jacobs.

Regarding Arnault, Jacobs says, “In so many ways, I’ve always felt like this little boy trying to please a father.”

Jacobs was born in New York City, but his own father died when he was 7, and after that, he moved around a lot. His mother remarried three times, and with each marriage came a move—New Jersey, and then Huntington, Long Island. There was a year in the Bronx, while his mother cared for her dying father, and then back to New Jersey again. As a teenager, Jacobs decided he’d had enough. He moved in with his father’s mother on the Upper West Side, to a grand Beaux-Arts apartment in the Majestic, on 72nd and Central Park West. Jacobs’s grandmother was a bit of an Auntie Mame—she’d traveled and had an appreciation for beautiful things, particularly those designed by her grandson. “I always say I lived my life with my grandmother,” Jacobs says. “She was emotionally stable, and she was very encouraging to me.”

The death of his grandmother in 1987 marked the last meaningful relationship he’d have with any member of his family. “I don’t really wish for it,” he says, and he appears to really mean it. “There was a time when my brother and my sister and I tried. I never get the sense they wanted much to do with me, and I never wanted much to do with them. At one point there was a little bit about them wanting to borrow some money, but then I never heard from them again.”

After Arnault hired him in 1997, Jacobs’s partying—such a glamorous crutch for the insecure “poseur”—got out of control. “It’s a cliché,” Jacobs says, “but when I drank I was taller, funnier, smarter, cooler.” Using cocaine and even heroin almost nightly, Jacobs stopped showing up, got thrown off airplanes, and pissed off his staff, who ultimately found their boss’s debauchery a pain in the ass. “I would come into work and fall straight to sleep,” Jacobs says, “and then I would tell everyone to come in on a Saturday because we were behind, and then I wouldn’t show up.”

Every frustrating move by Jacobs was countered with extreme generosity by Duffy: thoughtful gifts for the staff, extravagant parties.

“More than anything, I hurt for him,” Duffy says paternally. “Marc’s my family. I was just becoming overprotective of him.”

The relationship was precarious, however, when it came to dealing with LVMH. “They didn’t want to hear any complaints,” Duffy says. “They just kept wanting more product for Vuitton, and I was fighting for Marc Jacobs. It was awful. I mean, I wanted to take drugs! And it was so hard, because I know that Marc is someone who’s in a lot of pain, and I was just letting him destroy himself, and I couldn’t talk about it. Those four years are why I went gray.”

“It was so hard, because I know that Marc is someone who’s in a lot of pain, and I was just letting him destroy himself,” says Duffy about Jacobs’s early years at LVMH. “Those four years are why I went gray.”

One of Duffy’s greatest talents is for hiring, and he assembled a sort of global fashion dream team: He got stylists like Katie Grand and Venetia Scott. Camille Miceli, Chanel’s impossibly chic French public-relations director, was lured to Vuitton with the promise of creative input. (She now designs Vuitton’s fashion accessories.)

Ultimately, two people contacted Duffy directly to insist that something be done about Jacobs’s addictions. One was Anna Wintour, who had realized that the designer she’d been aggressively championing for years was now getting thrown off airplanes. The other was Naomi Campbell.

Duffy flew to Paris, explained the situation to Arnault—who, Duffy says, “respects creativity”—and checked Jacobs into a rehab center in Arizona. Jacobs kicked and screamed—couldn’t it wait until the collection was over? How about next season?

Ultimately, though, Jacobs acquiesced. “Finally, I just felt like, for someone who had always wanted to be in fashion more than anything, I wasn’t doing it,” Jacobs says. “I wasn’t even participating. But even still, Robert was the only person who could’ve made me do it.”

I can only do so much,” says Jacobs, lighting at least his fifth cigarette on a hot Paris morning. He’s just arrived at work, late-padding through the grand, slick, triple-height lobby of the Louis Vuitton headquarters on the rue du Pont Neuf, dressed in his signature look—which is an aggressive un-look: wet hair frizzing at its ends, dirty-ish T-shirt—resembling more a bike messenger or an intern than the head of a French luxury brand. The offices are more formal than his office in New York, where visitors are greeted by racks of clothes and a baby-faced, blond-haired receptionist boy in a pair of scruffy jeans.

Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy at the Met's Costume Institute Gala, May 2005.Photo: Patrick McMullan

“When I first moved here, my life was just like a frustrated version of what my life had been in New York,” Jacobs says. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) speak French. He didn’t like the food, the pace, the absence of multiethnic, all-hours takeout food. But, sober, he began to enjoy the city’s gentler rhythms: the quieter nightlife, the diminished options and temptations. Now his life is centered around two dogs and an apartment in a bougie corner of the 8th Arrondissement by the Champs de Mars, surrounded by families and diplomats and the odd tourist on his way to the Eiffel Tower. “I always get this certain anxiety when I’m in New York,” Jacobs says. “I see these billboards and Websites and movie openings and galleries and everyone’s like, ‘Have you seen Desperate Housewives? Have you seen The O.C.?’ I start hyperventilating. How can you stay on top of the art scene and what’s on TV, and read all those books? In New York, I just feel paralyzed by all that I’m missing. I feel stupid, uninformed. I don’t feel like that as much in Paris. It’s healthier for me.”

Still, there’s plenty to worry about. “Everything is growing and there’s just way too much to do,” he says. On this July morning, he’s just back from a vacation that included a trip to the Venice Biennale and Art Basel, and he’s realized that his nose is too congested to approve the box of fragrance sitting in the corner. (He’s signed off on it, anyway. “I’ll smell it when I can,” he says, shrugging.)

“Sometimes I find it quite upsetting because I feel like a fraud. It’s not like I ever believed that any one designer does absolutely everything, but … ” He gestures around the conference room: His favorite Diptyque candle (scent: Baies) was lit in advance in a divalike move that reminds one that Jacobs is a fashion designer. That wet hair, that dirty shirt, those awkward plastic glasses all involve precise forethought and calculation. He may not be the kind of designer who, as he puts it, “calls people doll and darling,” but he is a designer nonetheless, and a powerful one at that.

“I often feel uncomfortable,” Jacobs says. “I have this feeling like this is only going to be good as long as it’s good. Am I always full of ideas? No. Those things don’t happen every six months. It’s not even like, You have to change the shape of handbags and the luxury market. It’s like, This has to change the shape of history. And I don’t know how to calculate that. I really don’t.”

Last February, at the 26th Street Armory, after an excruciating 90-minute wait, Jacobs showed one of the strongest collections of his career. It was dark and it was gothic; the clothes were enormous, lush, and truly beautiful. They were more challenging than one tends to see in New York from such a major designer—it wasn’t easy for the untrained eye to understand, immediately, how so much velvet could ultimately be worn.

Jacobs, for once, was completely satisfied with his work. “It was a great feeling,” he says. “I wasn’t searching for inspiration, I was finding it everywhere I turned. It was T. J. Wilcox, Violet and the Incredibles, Tim Burton. Mostly, it was all the fallen angels in my life. I just think everyone’s an angel, and an angel is a perfect thing. Now I’m going into storybook land, but it’s the imperfection or the trip that I like. We’re all human, and we’re not supposed to be perfect, but there are certain girls who make mistakes, and I just love that. I love the strength to move forward. It’s very hard to be someone publicly, and then to be human and honest at the same time, say, ‘Yeah, I did that. Yeah, I’m human.’ It’s a dark angel, not dark like an evil spirit, it’s a melancholy, broken, dark soul. It’s a good thing.”

Jacobs claims that he does almost nothing in pursuit of celebrities—“I’m dead set against courting people,” he says—and yet no fashion show on Earth draws the type of crowd that Jacobs’s does. “I look out there before my shows, and it’s like in a movie, where the transparent me sees the real me and all of these people are there, and I just can’t believe it. And every time I’m like, What did you do in your life to deserve this?

But he is not without his own celebrity pantheon—the darker heroines like Coppola, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Chloë Sevigny, Sonic Youth rocker Kim Gordon.

“I think it’s hilarious when different fashion houses do ads with models with electric guitars. Marc always says, ‘I’m not cool, I’m a nerd, blah blah blah,’ ” says Gordon. “People are always saying that about us, too, about Sonic Youth, that my daughter is so lucky to have such a cool mom, but that’s always the last way that I feel. It’s very hard to really be authentic or make deep creative products if your foremost thing is being really cool. You have to have a full range of emotion, and Marc has that.”

Or, to put it another way, Jacobs averts his gaze and plays the wallflower, which makes the culture all the more avid in its pursuit of him. He’s still into the rock scene, and he’s now, most fruitfully, into the art world, too. His ad campaigns at Marc Jacobs have starred Cindy Sherman and Feinstein; his Vuitton collaboration with Murakami was a worldwide phenomenon.

“Chanel would be the scariest job in the world to get, but it would also be the coup de grâce. I’d be scared to death and thrilled.”

Typically, this worries him. “It’s not like I can make the Murakami moment happen again,” he says. “It’s not like if I went to the beach for a week and thought about it, I could come back with an answer. There are moments where it’s like, Oh, God, everything’s okay right now, but if I don’t come up with something soon, how are they going to feel about me then? This is the root of my psychological problems. There’s an exercise that I learned in therapy to be present, to be open to new experiences and then let go of the results. That’s what’s worked for me in the past. Of course, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me in the future.

“Chanel would be the scariest job in the world to get, but it would also be the coup de grâce. I’d be scared to death and thrilled, but it’s the only thing I’d love to do other than what I’m doing right now. If that’s all that’s left, then that’s not such a bad thing. Karl’s [Lagerfeld] the perfect person for the job, and he’s not going anywhere, but if there’s anything that tickles me behind the ear every once in a while, that’s it. That’s the only, the ultimate, thing.”

Backstage at the Louis Vuitton spring-summer 2006 men’s fashion show in Paris on the Fourth of July, Marc Jacobs is critiquing the show. “As long as the boys look hot, it works,” he says, as a team of stylists buzz around him in and out of the backstage tent, trying to gauge how much self-tanner is too much self-tanner in the temperamental Paris sunshine. And the boys do look hot: all slim and teenage with surfer hair and perfect teeth.

“Men’s is just not an area I’m extremely comfortable with,” he says.

It is up to Jacobs to field reporters’ questions in the crush and swarm of the after-show, to say “Blue Lagoon” a thousand times when asked about inspiration, to sign dozens of autographs for Asian journalists with no compunction about acting like teenage fans.

“I didn’t really do anything,” he says.

After the show, he turns up at Le Baron, a Paris bar with red walls and banquettes that Jacobs describes as “the hottest place in Paris. When Sofia was living here, she came all the time.”

On the dance floor, he does a series of pogo-y, mosh-pit moves to eighties songs spun by a pair of fat, hairy drag queens. He looks, bopping around, singing along to old Wham!, like he never wants to grow up.

On a Friday afternoon a month later, Jacobs is in his New York office, getting ready for a Scout Niblett concert at the Knitting Factory, and he’s talking about what he’d really like to do next, and it’s not even Chanel. What Marc Jacobs wants most is to fall in love—“operatic” love, if at all possible. “For the first time in my life, I can stay home alone and feel okay,” he says. “I used to think that if I was alone physically, that meant I was lonely, but for the first time in my life, this is not the case. But I don’t think I like being single. In sobriety, I definitely haven’t had the romance I’m dreaming of. I’m not looking to hook up with someone for a wild time out anymore. I hate the word mature … ” Jacobs’s voice trails off and he blushes a bit.

“There are nights when I can’t sleep. I go into a fantasyland and tableau sort of thinking, like, Tonight would be the perfect night to say, ‘Honey, I’m really tired and worried about work. And tell me about your day.’ ”

“Do you think someone will read this and try to get in touch with me?” He looks hopeful. “If I read that about someone, I’d drop him a note.”

See Marc Jacobs’s most recent collections

Lost and Found