Marc Jacobs has always been synonymous with the '90s grunge scene, and with a handful of collaborations between the label and Dr. Martens, it was only a matter of time before its new branch, Heaven by Marc Jacobs, would secure a shoe with the footwear giant.
Since 2019, Ava Nirui has held the title of Director of Special Projects at Marc Jacobs, and Heaven has been described as her brainchild. The New York-based creative got her big break over five years ago, when her bootleg-inspired designs and fun Instagram posts began going viral. The rest is history.
Since launching Heaven in 2020, the label has stockists worldwide and just opened its first store in Fairfax. The retail space also stocks other small labels including Stray Rats, Climax Books, Online Ceramics, Mowalola, Cactus Plant Flea Market, and more, and is only gaining more popularity.
The Dr. Marterns collaboration is resurrecting the Marc Jacobs '90s spirit, taking on the new Audrick silhouette, giving it a croc-embossed makeover in both high and low silhouettes. The shoe features a 1.9" sole, and the collaboration is the first to use the brand-new design.
Of course, we spoke to the creative force behind it all, Ava Nirui, about Heaven as well as the longstanding relationship between Marc Jacobs and Dr. Martens. If you're looking to get your hands on a pair of the shoes, they're available on the Dr. Martens website.
First of all, what does Dr. Martens mean to you?
Dr. Martens was the first “brand name” shoe I ever owned. I think the style was actually the 1460 — when I was seven or eight years old my brother had a party and one of his friends left a pair of DM shoes at our house and never came back for them. Lucky for me, they were a size 37, so those abandoned shoes ended up being my school shoes for the next five years. I feel very connected to the brand and what it stands for, and for this project, with so many cultural parallels between Marc Jacobs and Dr. Martens, we had a lot to work from.
Both brands are rooted in heritage and quality, and they celebrate innate New York DIY grunge spirit – this is very special to me.
Heaven draws inspiration from youth subcultures. What are some of your favourites? Are there any new subcultures you’ve seen emerge in 2021?
Grunge culture is clearly embedded in the brand DNA, and it’s one that's personal to me. One of my favorite MJ moments in history was Sonic Youth’s 1992 video for “Sugar Kane” which featured Marc and his collection prominently. It was worn by icons like Chloe Sevigny, Courtney Love, and Christy Turlington.
We take inspiration not only from the archive but also from the very natural and authentic Marc Jacobs attitude – it’s a certain nonchalance and effortless cool that feels very punk. Today, that same attitude is being channeled by the next generation who are discovering both the culture that came before them. I sense rebellion through the internet, and I see DIY art, fashion, and culture taking over.
Young people don’t need brands or celebrities to tell them what’s cool — they have access to so much information and as a result, are a very researched generation. Naturally, youth subcultures constantly morph and things from the past resurface to become new again. I have enjoyed watching many of the people and ideas that Marc has championed throughout time regain popularity. That’s really what Heaven is all about — showing people the incredibly inspiring, multi-faceted Marc Jacobs history and legacy, and then celebrating it in a way that almost feels like hacker fan-art.
What has your experience been since opening Heaven earlier this year? What’s been the most exciting part?
The store has been an incredible learning and growth experience. I feel so inspired by our customer, their interests and their curiosities. It’s very sweet to observe them in discovery mode – they totally geek out for all of the books and memorabilia.
I am also very grateful to the other brands who trust us enough to sell their collections in our shop. They are mostly small brands or artists which is a specialty practice and it enriches the entire experience.
The store reminds me of how it felt to visit a Marc Jacobs store in the early 2000s. The Bleeker Street store was also a community space, where Marc’s friends, and friends of the staff, would stop by to socialize. There is also an unreal series of images taken in the early 2000s of people like Selma Blair and Kate Moss hanging out in the back-of-house area at the Mercer Street shop.
When you design a space with friendship, exploration, and education in mind, you end up with much more than a shopping destination. It’s been particularly interesting to see former Marc by Marc Jacobs customers visiting the store. I think they too feel very nostalgic when experiencing the line. Oftentimes, they bring their kids. It’s a totally full-circle moment and there is something for everyone, no matter your age.