EXCLUSIVE: Marc Jacobs and CEO Eric Marechalle Detail New Retail and Ready-to-wear Strategy

Marc Jacobs is gearing up for a retail store opening spree, including a return to the brand’s roots in downtown New York with a 2,120-square-foot store on Prince Street in SoHo, and a Fifth Avenue flagship slated for next year.

“We will continue to move quickly, opening 20 stores in the next 16 to 18 months,” chief executive officer Eric Marechalle told WWD exclusively. “E-commerce, it’s a big part of the business, so we know which states are really asking for the product, and when we open new stores, it also increases e-commerce sales.”

New locations for the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand include Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Nashville and Honolulu, Hawaii.

“For somebody who loves to go shopping, anything that takes us back into brick-and-mortar, where you can talk to the salespeople and socialize, I find a relief,” said Jacobs, who made the West Village’s Bleecker Street a luxury fashion destination when he opened there in 1997. At one point the brand operated four apparel and accessories stores on the block until the last one closed in 2017.

But Marc Jacobs is not a traditional luxury brand anymore.

For the fall 2023 campaign, Kim Kardashian is wearing polka dot prints that were shown on the runway, then reimagined by a team for the Marc Jacobs ready-to-wear collection.

Jacobs’ runway collections are presented off-calendar, and sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman. The team-designed ready-to-wear collection, which retails for $200 to $2,000, is what is selling in the new stores, as well as through wholesale accounts Bergdorf’s, Neiman Marcus, Dover Street Market and Selfridges. This fall marks the first wide range ready-to-wear offering drawn from runway ideas.

Kim Kardashian for Marc Jacobs Fall 2023.

Kim Kardashian for Marc Jacobs fall 2023.

Tyrone Lebon

“It’s an American luxury brand with a strong identity and creative power, which is quite unique for here, but at the same time Marc has the ability to share his vision with a lot of people,” Marechalle said.

“Everything is coming from Marc’s vision, his vision for the future and what he has done before and the way it’s interpreted by talented young designers. And it’s nice for the team to be able to see the customer experience in SoHo and to share the vision inside the store.

“We’re very happy with this new concept, it reflects where we are today.”

The expansion comes six years after LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault fired a warning shot about the brand’s performance during an earnings call, saying, “I’m more concerned about Marc Jacobs than the U.S. president,” when asked by a reporter to comment on then-President Donald Trump.

Marechalle joined from Kenzo the same year, in 2017, and set about restructuring the business to focus more on logo products and the lower-priced, streetwear line Heaven, with an eye toward bringing the runway collection back, which he did in 2021.

“We proved the capability to change the Marc story,” Marechalle said, noting that bags are now the largest part of the business, and other categories are growing apace, with jewelry being the newest.

Although LVMH does not break out figures for individual brands, the first-half earnings report in July noted “remarkable performances by Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Celine, Loro Piana, Loewe and Marc Jacobs.”

The Marc Jacobs Instagram account has gained 500,000 followers year to date, and Coty has revealed it is bringing back Marc Jacobs Beauty in late 2025 or early 2026.

Marc Jacobs Fall 2023

Marc Jacobs fall 2023

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

The new SoHo store’s design concept is black and chrome with yellow highlights, a stamped “Marc Jacobs” repeating pattern on fitting room walls, and the classic black-and-white “Marc Jacobs” type on outdoor signage.

“I worked with Peter Miles and we came up with this. It was very much about the logo, typeset and repeating the pattern,” Jacobs said. “And I have always loved bright yellow.…There was packaging for fragrance in the 1960s called Bandit, it was yellow, and in my art collection, I have an Ellsworth Kelly ‘Yellow Curve’ that makes me feel very happy. It’s like a shocking color but has a soothing optimistic quality.”

The stores are designed “to highlight the product as the star,” Marechelle said. “It’s about how we use the vision of Marc in products that are more wearable.”

As examples, he notes the runway Kiki shoe with a three-inch platform and six-inch heel, is made with a more comfortable, lower heel for the commercial rtw line, and The Sack bag from the runway is interpreted in functional nylon.

“Eric believes in the storytelling of runway to inspire designers in the company, and it’s great to have that support,” Jacobs said. “And for me, what is being made of the energy and the message, I just can’t find fault with. I’m happy. It’s a little difficult when I get involved in certain things because I bring my head and my slowness, and that isn’t conducive to staying on a calendar and producing commercial product. So letting what I do go into the hands of the other people working with us, it’s been really OK.”

Marc Jacobs Fall 2023

Marc Jacobs fall 2023

Courtesy of Marc Jacobs

When asked if he sees all the product before it goes out into the world, Jacobs said, “That’s not really true. Again, I don’t want to get in the way of this stuff and I do think that’s what can happen with me. I interrupt stuff. But I see it in its form somehow.

“We have a small team I’ve worked with for years, including Joseph Carter, and we create the runway statement. And to see what’s done with what we put out in those shows is great.…I’ve noticed things from past seasons, from archive,” Jacobs added. “I was at Dover Street recently and saw a girl wearing a black-and-white top with stripes that ended in a scallop, something we did a long time ago in double face wool. This was a stretch knit version of it. It was really well executed and I thought, ‘That’s a nice interpretation.’”

Some pieces from the runway collection will appear in flagship stores during special events like New York Fashion Week, Marechalle said.

“We want to keep the capability to express product at different levels. And Marc doesn’t have market pressure with the show. We have a strong artist, we want him to tell us how he sees the world today. What Marc did yesterday is old, he’s already excited about what’s next, and the public is not always on the same speed. In the past, what used to happen, is we were already on another story. I think it was strange to see something from Marc and not see six months later what was the look,” he said, describing Jacobs as a great designer but not necessarily a great merchandiser. “Now I think you will recognize Marc Jacobs again on the street.”

“It took me a little while, but I have embraced what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it, and what time we’re doing it,” Jacobs said. “I definitely have embraced a smaller team and less resources — but I still have a nice budget. At first I was very bogged down with comparing what life looks like now to what life once was, but I’m not doing that so much more anymore, and it makes me more comfortable with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

With the opening of SoHo, the global store count sits at 116, still less than half of the 250 stores at the brand’s height. Other new store locations will include McLean, Va.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Troy, Mich.; Aventura, Fla., and Oakbrook, Ill.

“On the luxury side of the mall, between luxury and Apple is a good location for us,” Marechalle said, adding that most stores will be around 2,500 square feet.

“We are for people who are attracted to creativity, who are in need of self expression and to be surprised. We are focused on being unexpected. The fact we created Heaven was a way for Marc Jacobs to link with the customer,” he said of the hit Gen Z brand created in 2000, led by Ava Nirui, and featuring work by artists and Jacobs’ friends.

The two brands have exchanged information and are now seeing overlap in customers, the CEO said. For example, Jacobs got to know the rapper Ice Spice after she appeared in a Heaven campaign last year and invited her to perform at the launch of the fall team-designed Marc Jacobs collection at Dover Street Market on Sept. 8.

“When we opened the Heaven store on Fairfax in L.A., we had the phenomenon of young kids coming to Heaven and parents discovering it was Marc Jacobs,” he said of the multi-generational appeal.

The Heaven business is mainly online with monthly drops, said Marechalle, who plans to keep the Heaven stores in L.A. and London for now, rather than incorporating the collection into the new Marc Jacobs stores. “We are very open to the idea of test and learn and to giving the artists a lot of freedom. If you put too many boundaries, it gets less interesting,” he said.

The executive is setting up the brand to live beyond Marc Jacobs. “That is the goal,” he said, with the caveat that Jacobs isn’t going anywhere soon. “I can’t see him not creating. He talks only about the next. Sometimes it was difficult because in the business you have to also repeat. He accepts that we repeat but he is passionate about the next.”

When asked how he feels about fashion now, Jacobs said, “Some days I’m full of fear and it’s so frustrating, then some days I have transcendent moments of joy in a fitting room when I say, ‘I believe in this, let’s do this.’ There are ups and downs, but in general I still love it.”

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