At the end of this month, Louis Vuitton will open a three-storey luxury super store, or Maison as they prefer, on London’s Bond Street. Designed by Peter Marino, the store will be as much an exercise in brand building as sales point. A few weeks earlier, the latest Marc by Marc Jacobs store opened in Milan. These two motors of the Marc Jacobs machine will make a very different noise and do very different jobs.
‘I build these to sell product,’ says Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, sat outside the new Milan store. ‘I really do’ he adds to make sure you understand. Duffy has been Jacobs’ business partner since the designer left Parsons design school in New York in 1984. And although he is involved across all of Jacob’s collections, including those for Louis Vuitton, The Marc by Marc Jacobs operation is Duffy’s particular obsession. ‘Marc doesn’t really understand it,’ Duffy acknowledges (blessedly open and uncagey). He doesn’t need to, Duffy has things under control.
The Marc line, first launched in 2001, is not so much a diffusion collection as a fast moving streetwear line with its own logic and momentum. It has a separate team of designers. And while there are clear conceptual lines of communication with the main collection, it does its own thing. And regularly, pushing new product into store weekly to keep curiosity levels high.
The Milan Marc store, on Piazza del Carmine in the Brera area of the city – like the original on Bleeker Street in the West Village – is designed to be a neighbourhood hangout rather than just one more tenant on a long drag of luxury behemoths. Duffy wants the Marc customer, to come to store to meet friends, talk about things that young people talk about, and hopefully take something to the cash register, even if it is only a $15 pair of flip flops.
The new store houses the first Marc café and bar, making it even more of a social space. And seeing the new bar crammed beyond capacity during Salone del Mobile, Duffy seems happy that things are just as they should be.