15 Ways Marc Jacobs Changed Fashion Forever

Happy 40th Anniversary, MJ.

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Model Kate Moss and designer Marc Jacobs at the Louis Vuitton Soho store opening, New York, New York...

The first rule of Marc Jacobs is you must talk about Marc Jacobs.

I learned this early, during my first fashion magazine internship. I could not legally drink or rent a car, but I could teeter down Orchard Street in a pair of YSL platforms while hauling six garment bags on my back. To me, it seemed glamorous; really, it was a death wish. After too many treks past speeding cabs (and worse, cads on speed), a knowing stylist flagged me down before I smacked my little head on the pavement. “You don’t have to wear those to the office anymore,” she said, flicking her lit cigarette at my trembling ankles. “Just get the mouse flats from Marc Jacobs.”

Marc Jacobs was a guy, of course, but also a thing… and also, The Thing. He wore chunky glasses and a nubby striped sweater the first time I saw him IRL, which was before “IRL” was a word. I spotted him scrolling through the dress racks in his Soho boutique, and I just kind of stared, scared, until he noticed me. “You know the biggest size in our kids collection will fit you, right?” He asked. “It’s kind of a trick if you’re short. Do one of the kids’ lace shirts as a baby tee with a denim skirt.” I died, then I did, and then I got my first assignment as a fashion writer. This is a coincidence. This is also magic and it’s all Marc’s fault.

Most fashion fans who survived both the Indie Sleaze era and the untimely murder of Marissa Cooper on The O.C. have a similar story to mine. They were told of Marc Jacobs from an older girl — a classmate, a colleague, a Kirsten Dunst interview in an Interview magazine. Then they started working out how to exist, through clothes, as a girl with a brain, a body, and a desire to acknowledge both assets, instead of pretending they couldn’t be in the same female space. Because of this, many millennial women had our adolescence forged with an MJ logo, and we’ve passed on those vibes to our sisters, our interns, and now, even our kids.

Today, Marc Jacobs marks its 40th anniversary, just as many of the label’s biggest fans hit their own 40th birthdays. To celebrate, and dig a little deeper into why the brand and its creator have influenced our closets — and drained our wallets — so many times, here are 15 Marc Jacobs moments that help define his fashion legacy.

So far, anyway.

1984: The Sweater Era

Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 1986WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

Just out of college, Jacobs and his grandmother, a knitter, made oversized sweaters in his apartment. Girls in New York wore them with black tights and cowboy boots; the New York Times wrote them up; today, you can buy them on eBay for $5K. (Sighhhhh.) Two seasons later, his first-ever runway show included more sweater magic, including a knit sequin “hugs” sweater and tube dress with sparkly hands wrapping around the waist. If that sounds a lot like Loewe’s glove dress from 2022 (and its subsequent Beyoncé bodysuit for her epic 2023 Renaissance tour), well…consider that design an OG Marc renaissance, too.

1994: The Post-Grunge Glow Up

Marc Jacobs Fall 2024Rose Hartman/WireImage/Getty Images

In 1993, Jacobs was famously fired for creating a "grunge" collection for Perry Ellis that turned streetwear into luxury adulthood — and shocked everyone who wasn't already playing Sonic Youth in their stereos. (Jacobs got the last laugh, re-releasing the clothes in 2018 under his own name.) After the noise died down, the designer went back to work, creating a series of super-polished workwear with a wink. There were baby blue blazers and teeny satin shorts, dresses topped with Mickey Mouse ears, chunky heart brooches on denim work jackets, and the runway debut of a Brazilian teenager named Gisele Bündchen in a cute little polka dot skirt. We all know how that went.

1998: The Pink Coat

Marc Jacobs Spring 1998Penske Media/Penske Media/Getty Images

Here is a Pepto-pink coat going down the Marc Jacobs runway in 1998. By the early 2000s, the same pink coat (but cheaper) would be at The Gap, and also remade as a cropped trench, a poplin shirt jacket, and even a Baby Gap mini-me. Similar coats later appeared at Forever 21 and Walmart. The famous “cerulean” monologue in The Devil Wears Prada is about an Oscar de la Renta dress that trickles down to “a bargain bin of stuff.” That dress never existed… but this coat did. That’s all.

2002: Sofia Coppola for Marc Jacobs

Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs

Muses are fine. Friends are better. When Marc Jacobs paired with Coty to launch his very first “body splash” perfume in 2001, he chose bestie Sofia Coppola to model with the giant bottle. Photographer Juergen Teller (another longtime pal) shot Coppola in a bed and a pool, but the ads weren’t oozing sex. Instead, they were a little quiet, like high school friends trying to convince each other that they’re actually really pretty, and taking secret Polaroids to prove it.

2004: Fame Enters the Chat

Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen attend the Marc Jacobs Spring 2005 showPeter Kramer/Getty Images

Imagine walking into a fashion show and seeing Jennifer Lopez, Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Mandy Moore, and Christy Turlington sitting in the same front row. That was the scene in September of 2004, when Marc Jacobs produced the most stacked celebrity turnout of the week, and likely the year. Jacobs had already been a fashion must-know. This turning point made him part of pop culture, too.

2005: The Stam Bag

Beyoncé, 2007Han Myung-Gu/WireImage/Getty Images

In peak era of toxic masculinity, it was ironically Marc Jacobs — a man — who decided to combat that BS by hero-worshipping our sensible grandmas instead. Named for the cat-like Canadian model Jessica Stam, the bag was shaped like an oversized nanny purse with quilted leather, a giant twist closure, and a solid metal chain that delivered a satisfying trill whenever it hit the floor… which it usually did, somewhere around midnight at Bungalow 8. (Oops?) Its peak pop culture moment: When Beyoncé herself became a fan.

2008: Victoria Beckham Secures the Bag

Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs

For his 2008 ads, Marc Jacobs asked friend Victoria Beckham to climb into a giant shopping bag… then try to climb out. Juergen Teller’s resulting photos showed tanned, toned limbs caught mid-flail—and wearing must-have heels, of course. The giggly ads went viral (well… as viral as one could go in 2008) and were later remade in 2018 starring Beckham’s own eponymous fashion brand.

2011: The Sisters Fanning

Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs

As Sofia Coppola’s ingenue in 2010’s Somewhere, Elle Fanning (then 12) was a natural baton handoff for the role of Marc muse. Her first-ever fashion campaign for the designer’s diffusion line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, pictured the starlet in a billowy maroon dress with her hair in her face. It was easy and cool, and set the actor down a long path of ad wins; she is now the face of L’Oréal. At the same time, Fanning’s big sister Dakota (then 17) posed for the Marc Jacobs scent Oh Lola. She wore a pink mini-dress with bare legs, with a giant bottle of the perfume on her lap. British censors declared it “could be seen to sexualize a child” and banned the campaign. Shoppers and feminist pundits disagreed, and the nature and power of girlhood was debated for the zillionth time online. Meanwhile, the fragrance continued to sell out at Sephora and Fanning The Elder remained awesome. In fact, she is the current face of Marc Jacobs.

2012: The Man Dress

Marc Jacobs at the 2012 Met GalaWWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

Marc Jacobs wore a black lace dress of his own design to the Met Gala in 2012, along with his best-selling bedazzled “pilgrim” heels. The moment was so major, Seth Meyers even parodied it at the CFDA Awards. Twelve years later, a dude wearing a frock to a party (or to his own concert, like Harry Styles) is totally normal. But that’s partly because Jacobs made it that way.

2014: Always Coca Cola

Marc Jacobs Spring 2014Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images

Several months after Marc Jacobs became the “creative director” of Diet Coke, the designer dropped a stealth soda logo onto his runway via model Georgia May Jagger, whose Coke graphic was paired with a high-neck Victorian gown, sneakers, and a backpack. Miley Cyrus would later star in the collection’s campaign, posing on a stormy beach in the same branded look.

2015: Solidarity!

Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2015 WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

A year before The Women’s March even happened, designers Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier staged the Marc by Marc Jacobs show as a feminist fabric anthem, with “solidarity” and “choice” patches on denim and dresses, along with peace doves pinned to berets. Can we shop our way to liberation? We cannot. Can we show teens that loving fashion and committing to change is possible in the same system? Bartley, Hillier, and Jacobs urged us to try, and made great clothes, too.

2016: The Snapshot Bag

Natasha Lyonne carries a Marc Jacobs snapshot bag at the brand’s Fall 2016 showJamie McCarthy/Getty Images

There was this pre-pandemic moment where everyone wanted to wear a fanny pack as a sling. Jacobs said “hold my purse” and introduced a colorful, adjustable take on the classic camera bag that elevated the trend into a true accessory moment, with appearances on everyone from Bella Hadid (in New York) to Emily (in Paris). It continues to be very cute.

2018: Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress

Zendaya at an event in 2018Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Zendaya, Lizzo, and Kylie Jenner all wore the same $12,000 feathered gown from Jacobs’ Spring 2019 collection. They all fit, they all stunned, and they all proved that designer fashion should have no body or height boundaries.

2021: Girls On the Side

Marc Jacobs Fall 2022 Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

After the pandemic, Jacobs returned to the runway with a new request: His looks should be shot from the side to capture the energy of women going places, and to document the sculptural shapes of his layered dresses, pants, and coats. (It mirrored an emerging TikTok trend of influencers filming “walk shots” to better capture the movement of their looks. Smart.) The show also introduced Marc’s new and massive brand print, which turned his name into an abstract swirl and put an #IYKYK spin on traditional logomania.

2023: Just Like Heaven

Olivia Rodrigo performs onstage during the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images

Technically, Marc Jacobs launched Heaven — its diffusion line with creative director Ava Nirui, aka @AvaNope — in 2020. But this year, the “polysexual” label reached an apex, augmenting its gotta-have mesh print tanks and corseted mini-dresses (as seen on Olivia Rodrigo) with heightened punk purses and silk platform stompers, plus a beauty collab with Bleach London. Other Heaven partnerships have included velvet Doc Marten Mary Janes and a series of skirts and tops with Kirsten Dunst’s close-ups from The Virgin Suicides. That film was directed by Sofia Coppola, because Heaven might be a brand, but heaven is what happens when you keep your clothes close and your best friends closer.