Why This Groundbreaking Runway Show Got Marc Jacobs Fired

Thanks to bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth, grunge was big in the ’90s — inspiring not only music but fashion.

Marc Jacobs, then just 29, took inspiration from the cultural phenomenon at Perry Ellis in the spring ’93 collection. After being appointed as the label’s vice president of women’s design in 1988, Jacobs played it safe for a few years, until his infamous grunge show.

He dressed models in beanies, layered flannels, cargo pants and slip dresses, mirroring the outfits made famous by bands in the Seattle rock scene that put together their looks by shopping at thrift stores and garage sales.

Naomi Campbell, runway, Perry ellis, Marc Jacobs, spring 1993, Model Naomi Campbell seated backstage at the Perry Ellis Spring/Summer 1993 show in New York designer by Marc Jacobs
Model Naomi Campbell backstage at the Perry Ellis spring ’93 show.
CREDIT: Fairchild Fashion Archives

For footwear, the catwalkers sported Dr. Martens combat boots and Converse sneakers. Predating high-fashion collaborations with comfort and sneaker brands, the use of such low-priced shoes on the runway challenged the notions of what belonged in the luxury market.

Assortment of shoes backstage at the Perry Ellis Spring/Summer 1993 show in New York designer by Marc Jacobs
Assorted shoes backstage at the Perry Ellis spring ’93 show.
CREDIT: Fairchild Fashion Archives

Even the music for the show was unconventional, with grunge band L7’s “Pretend We’re Dead” blasting as Christy Turlington walked down the runway.

Perry ellis, spring 1993, Christy turlington, runway, Outtake; Model on the runway of Marc Jacob's iconic grunge collection for the Perry Ellis spring 1993 Ready-To-Wear collection on November 3, 1992 in New York...Article title: "New York's Motley Crew"
Christy Turlington walks the runway for Perry Ellis spring ’93.
CREDIT: Fairchild Fashion Archives

“I had no idea I’d be fired [for that show],” Jacobs told the New York Times. “But it’s still my favorite collection because it marked a time when I went with my instincts against instructions, and I turned out to be right. It came out of a genuine feeling for what I saw on the streets and all around me.”

Needless to say, Jacobs’ challenge of the status quo didn’t earn him many fans among the fashion elite. Critics and Jacobs’ bosses were both less than impressed — and he was fired.

Unidentified model lacing up boots backstage at the Perry Ellis Spring/Summer 1993 show in New York designer by Marc Jacobs
A model lacing up her butterfly boots backstage at Perry Ellis spring ’93.
CREDIT: Fairchild Fashion Archives

Nonetheless, the collection in some ways launched Jacobs’ career, upping his name recognition and hitting the culturally relevant note that has been the designer’s MO since. After being ousted from Perry Ellis, Jacobs and business partner Robert Duffy founded a design and licensing company, Marc Jacobs International Company, L.P.

In 1997, Louis Vuitton hired Jacobs as creative director, in exchange for receiving backing from the French house for his eponymous label. At LV, Jacobs launched the brand’s first-ever ready-to-wear collection and expanded its accessories department. After years of expansion for both Louis Vuitton and his own brand, Jacobs stepped down from LV in 2013 to focus primarily on his company.

The same spirit that got Jacobs axed in the ’90s has continued to earn him acclaim today. Most recently, he was announced as recipient of the first-ever MTV Fashion Trailblazer Award, which he’ll receive at the Video Music Awards ceremony on Aug. 26.

Flip through the gallery to see more Perry Ellis spring ’93 looks.

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