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SXSW: Marc Jacobs on designing in the age of social media

You would think a progressive designer like Marc Jacobs would be experimenting with the next wave of technology needed to push a fashion brand forward, but alas, the 53-year-old New Yorker is as analogue as ever. That is, however, aside from his somewhat recent venture into Instagram which he downloaded only two years ago.

Today the iconic designer made his SXSW debut, chatting with Vogue’s Sally Singer on all things social media, shows, and stardom. Here are the highlights from the intimate, hour-long chat:

On his favourite emoji: Ghost emoji

On his two favourite Instagram accounts at the moment: @earlboykins and @michelgaubert

On his recent “anti-social media” 17/18 show: We’ve shown at the armory for many years and our shows have usually involved a very elaborate set. My attitude is that it is a show – a theatrical experience. Prince refused to go on stage while everyone had their phones out. I had been thinking about the show and what it meant to me – and in someway how to control that experience of what people’s focus was. I wanted them to focus on the clothes. I wanted absolutely no set, I wanted no lighting, I wanted nothing. Whatever light was in the armory was sufficient light to see the clothes. I can’t force people not to use their phone but I wanted to politely suggest that if they could please put away their phones and watch the collection pass them by, I would prefer them to meet me halfway in this experience. Most people were willing to do that.

On finding inspiration when designing collections: My process is the same, the only thing is that everything influences us. Although we live in a little bubble of work for a period of time during the show, we’re still sponges for everything we feel, see, read and hear. There are things that permeate that bubble. I do have contact with theatre and art and music. I do get news on Instagram. I can’t really turn them off. The immediacy of this interaction, I can’t personally decide I’m not going to let that influence me, because it does get in.

On what he secretly enjoys following on Instagram: I follow friends. I like looking at that thing with the magnifying glass (pretty sure he meant the Discover feature). Things that are very satisfying. like cutting through butter with a hot knife. I look at that (Instagram Discover) to find things that the computer god decided what I’d be interested in. That all knowing entity that knows what you’ll like.

On what gets the most likes on Instagram: My bag from Hermes, or a selfie with my clothes off, or cuddling with my dog, or food. There are certain things that seem to appeal to the larger amount of my followers but I don’t post them deliberately. If it weren’t fun and I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.

On his personal Instagram versus the official Marc Jacobs account: I don’t think of it (personal account) as a marketing tool; it’s more about my ego than a marketing tool. I’m not sure posting a photo of myself generates dollars. Maybe it makes me more accessible and human. I do answer some people. I can’t do it with everybody. I think part of the joy or the beauty of social media is that you can affect people and they can feel a little more connected to you and sense your humanity in some way. That you’re just not a brand, you’re a human being who puts their pants on one leg at a time.

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