Ahead of Marc Jacobs’s latest fragrance launch Perfect, Jacobs sat down with ELLE to discuss the inspiration behind the perfume, his unconventional idea of perfection, and why he dislikes the term “self-acceptance.”
Marc Jacobs is wearing a baby blue sweater that appears, even through the Zoom screen’s distortion, as soft as swansdown. He’s accessorized it with a string of pearls, dark red nail polish, and a healthy amount of quarantine beard growth. “I’m in my element,” the designer says of the Soho hotel room where he’s been holed up during self-isolation. He describes it as a “giant closet” full of clothes and make-up to experiment with. “These inanimate things, this palette of stuff we choose to create our identity with,” he says, “it’s alive, and when it’s not alive, I’m not interested.”
Jacobs’s exuberant quarantine looks and makeup “Too-Torials” have been giving his Instagram followers plenty of life. He’s focused on elaborate eye makeup, since you can still showcase it while wearing a mask. The whole thing reminds him, he says, of playing dress-up as a kid. “It feels very naïve, very innocent—like how I got here in the first place. It’s okay to express myself, do my own TV show, and live in my own movie.”
The designer’s imagination has always been unrivaled when it comes to creating his own worlds: Look at his seismic grunge show, which brought the Seattle subculture to the runway (to the horror of many fashion traditionalists of the time), or the all-dancing fantasia he concocted for fall 2020. Jacobs has always been an unconventional person drawn to unconventional beauties. Perfection doesn’t seem like something that would really interest him, but in fact, his new fragrance, Perfect, serves as an examination of the idea in all its complexity. Jacobs inked the word Perfect on the inside of his right wrist after attending a rehab program where patients were given bracelets emblazoned with it. He’s also fond of a saying from the I Ching, which, he says, changed his entire outlook: “I am a perfect being, in a perfect world, where everything that happens benefits me completely.” He told the perfumers of Perfect these stories, rather than giving them scent-based cues. “I can’t really dissect it and say, ‘The daffodil represents perfect,’ ” he explains of the final product. He even went against the norm for his perfume bottle, molding his own version out of clay and asking people on his team to bring him “goodies and charms” to decorate the cap. He took the same charmingly DIY approach to the brand’s ad campaign, where he cast 15 diverse aspirants culled from social media, after asking them a series of questions like “What is a perfect meal for you?” and “What does your perfect day look like?”
We’re at an interesting inflection point for the idea of perfection. In some ways, the definition of beauty is broadening to encompass more racial diversity and a range of body types, though we certainly have far to go on both fronts. At the same time, it’s constricting, thanks to our addiction to filters and Facetune, and our attempts to use injections and surgery to emulate their glossy effects. Jacobs says he isn’t a big believer in filtering out so-called flaws. He spends two and a half hours in the bathroom every morning getting ready, he says, “creating this person I want people to see,” but he draws the line at digital manipulation. “You can use [filters] in a way that’s playful, to project different versions of yourself, but if you use it to hide behind or cover up what you’re unhappy with, then it’s a sad thing.”
“Self-acceptance I find very troubling as a phrase,” he confides. “Because it feels like a compromise: ‘I accept myself.’ No, how about ‘I celebrate myself as I am’?” He hopes the fragrance will help people do that in whatever way makes sense for them. “I’ve always said clothes mean nothing until somebody wears them. Well, perfume doesn’t mean anything until someone wears it.”
Below, watch the video campaign featuring the face of the fragrance Lila Moss, daughter of supermodel Kate Moss, and 42 other gorgeous models hand-picked from a social media casting call. You can shop the fragrance on pre-sale right now at MarcJacobs.com for $30, and on July 30th, you can also purchase Perfect at Macys.com.
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This article appears in the September 2020 issue of ELLE.
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