The Marc Jacobs brand is arguably one of the most dynamic labels in the current marketplace. Sales were up 30%, at last check, while advertising campaigns remain gossip page fodder and boutiques continue opening at a rapid pace, most recently in Paris and Moscow. We caught up with Robert Duffy, vice-president of Marc Jacobs, while he was in Moscow to launch the brand’s first boutique in conjunction with the Landau Fashion Group. Duffy gave us the lowdown on the company’s recent real estate explosion, what it’s like dipping into Russian territory and why Victoria Beckham likes to pal around in a paper bag.
JC Report: What is the core of the Marc Jacobs brand?
Robert Duffy: Marc is the "core,". He is the reason that the brand is so developed.
JCR: What is the role of advertising campaigns?
RD: The prêt-a-porter collection already has a strong force, but the advertising campaign acts like an image of the whole company.
JCR: How powerful is the advertisement ultimately?
RD: In my opinion, an advertisement should not "sell" the product, it should merely inform the target audience of the brand and explain the main particularities of the product.
JCR: Are there any differences between the advertising steps in different countries?
RD: Sure, retail needs vary in different countries. If our partners wish to have more advertisements for the accessories, we can do a special photo shoot.
JCR: Who generates the ideas for the advertising campaigns?
RD: It’s a mix of Marc’s imagination and the people who take part in the campaigns.
JCR: Why was Victoria Beckham chosen as the official face of a recent advertising campaigns?
RD: They are old friends. Victoria runs along with the "experiments" with great pleasure—she definitely understood the ironic idea of our brand performance, and supports our main principles of creation.
JCR: Who will be next face of your advertising campaign?
RD: That’s a surprise!
JCR: Who is the main competitor of Marc Jacobs brand?
RD: Women who wear Marc Jacobs and women who wear other brands are so different. I prefer to think that we have competition between Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
JCR: What are the benefits of Marc’s brands?
RD: We don’t create straight-forwardly sexy things—Marc Jacobs’ clothes have a complicated concept behind them. If a man wants everyone to pay attention on him, then Jacobs is not the right brand.
JCR: Is that the thing that affects the image of women for the designer?
RD: If Marc wants to create the effect of nakedness, he will not simply disrobe the body—that just doesn’t meet the essence of the brand’s concept or his vision for fashion. Self-ironical people who choose the clothes are motivated by other principles.
JCR: Do you think that this approach can draw clients in Russia? How is Marc Jacobs popular in Russia?
RD: The Moscow boutique is still very young. It would be beter to compare the results in the future, but I think this project will be successful.
JCR: What gives you such confidence in the future?
RD: Our fans are more intellectual then the clients of Dolce & Gabbana, for instance—they are motivated by essentially different principles while buying clothes.
JCR: What points were you guided with while choosing a partner in Russia?
RD: Aizel Trudel was the first who represented our brand to the Russian auditory. She understood the concept immediately, and, frankly speaking, that doesn’t happen very frequently. Most buyers purchase our collections only because of the name or because of some business obligations with Marc Jacobs’ brands.
JCR: Under this bigger umbrella, is it easy to separate Marc’s work from the work of other labels?
RD: Our brand has an absolutely unique target audience and so it is necessary to separate people by different groups. Marc is currently acting more in Paris, while I mostly perform in New York. He creates a first line of Marc Jacobs and I run the other projects. Certainly, there is a team of designers in New York who work with Marc, but our functions differ. Marc is responsible for the women’s collection, and I am subjected to the men’s.
JCR: What are the names of the invited designers?
RD: For 25 years of work there were lots of them—Tom Ford is not an exception.
JCR: Was Marc’s ascension as art-director of Louis Vuitton generated by financial motivation, or was it a wish to expand his familiar boundaries?
RD: We wanted to grow as a brand. When the brand rises, it always needs financial support and advice. Having a patron in the fashion industry is a big plus. We signed a contract with the term that the Marc Jacobs brand would become a part of the LVMH concern, but that 2/3 of the company would be left in our hands and the name would still belong to its founders.
JCR: Do you feel a predominance of "the giant"?
RD: We control our company. Last year we had an increase of 30% sales, which happened because of large diversification of the brand. If one of the lines starts losing customer’s interest then the others can still support it.
JCR: What line do you evaluate as the most profitable for now?
RD: Marc by Marc Jacobs.
JCR: Are you going to develop the distribution of it in Russia?
RD: If Aizel Trudel wants to, we definitely will.
JCR: In what way is Jacobs’ style progressing for now?
RD: It is always a surprise for me. He can change his direction in minutes. Last season he was inspired by the cocoon, next season it could be picture frames.
JCR: What are the new projects you are going to launch this year?
RD: We are carrying out a collection of men’s underwear and are planning to run for a women’s line too. We are motivated by the principle that launching a project is sensible when we are already prepared for it, but not when it we’re just feeding a demand in the market. It won’t matter if we are the first or if we are the last—the first ones are frequently mistaken. It’s good to be the best, but not necessarily the first.
This interview was conducted by Yuna Zavelskaya, deputy editor-in-chief of PROfashion magazine.