BYLINE: Evgenia Peretz
Before Marc Jacobs arrives, a top-level advertising-strategy meeting at Louis Vuitton is just another fashion bitchfest.
"What about Eva Herzigova?" asks Antoine Arnault, the thirtysomething son of LVMH's C.E.O., Bernard Arnault, as he drags coolly on his cigarette.
"Eva's out of the picture for me," says Mert, the more compact half of the white-hot photography duo Mert and Markus. "She's very downward-everything."
"Karolina Kurkova?" Arnault mutters.
"I find her ... " says Mert, searching for the word.
"Common," answers art director David James, a Brit with thick glasses and funky teeth.
"Common," says Mert. "She's done so many lingerie things, and that's made her a little, like, common."
"Cameron Diaz?" someone offers.
"I find her very common," says Mert, going with the word of the moment. "She has no fashion identity. I don't think girls want to look like Cameron Diaz. They want to look like J.Lo."
"Dry," says Mert.
Marc Jacobs enters, and the negativity eases. He's in his typical getup-Martin Margiela sweater, navy-blue Marc Jacobs pants, Stan Smith sneakers, two silver hairdresser's clips pulling back his hair, and a neck brace (the result of a recent dog-walking accident)-and he is apologizing profusely. Being late is something he hates. So is being unnecessarily harsh. He slips into the conversation and assesses the choice of models gracefully but decisively. "Daria's great. Daria's beautiful," he says, his voice measured, with a touch of a lilt, "but in a believable way. There's nothing out of this world about her.... I love Beyonce, I think she's fantastic ... but that's really not the way I'd like to go."
Though Bernard Arnault, after the success of the last campaign, which starred Jennifer Lopez, wants Beyonce Knowles, Jacobs's hesitation has suddenly put everything in LVMH world into question: could it be that Beyonce-whose 2003 anthem "Crazy in Love" Jacobs just blasted during the runway show for his own line a month earlier-won't be all that two months from now?
At 40, Marc Jacobs may be the first "fashion darling" not to possess the qualities traditionally associated with that term, like queeniness, grandness, and absurdly thin skin. He is, in the fashion world, not "fabulous," not "beyond," but cool. Old-school cool. For most Marc Jacobs fans, he's not just cool, he's "so fucking cool." The same thing might be said of Jacobs's devoted followers-"Marc-olettes," as Vogue's Anna Wintour puts it-for whom he is known almost as much as for his clothes. They include filmmaker Sofia Coppola, scene-ster Zoe Cassavetes, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and actresses Lisa Marie Presley, Winona Ryder, and Chloe Sevigny. Though most are in their 30s and 40s, they are still considered the cool kids and, intentionally or not, have done their bit to impart to Jacobs a mystique. They sit in the front row of his shows; they wear his clothes in fawning New York Times Magazine cover stories and in court, when appearing for, say, shoplifting; they lend their names to his bags; and they star in his indie-rock advertisements, shot by Juergen Teller. Teller happens to be married to Venetia Scott, the stylist for Jacobs's collection. Both are really cool.
Lots of other cool people are digging his scene, too. Attending his spring 2004 collection in New York in October were actresses Hilary Swank, Amanda Peet, and Sissy Spacek, P. Diddy and girlfriend Kim Porter, two Strokes (Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond), Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis, and Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell, among others. Afterward, they kicked it at the Maritime Hotel, where one table after another lit up, and Sofia and friends drank Dad's wine. The hottest models-Giselle, Bridget Hall, Angela Lindvall, Frankie Rayder, and Erin Wasson-do his shows for free. "It's the epitome of fucking cool," says Wasson, all pumped up backstage before the October show, wearing a T-shirt with a skull on it and sneakers with no socks. Giselle struts by with a glass of champagne. "Whoo! You go, Erin!" she yells, …