As we explained in our special report, brands are not just brands anymore but entire universes, spawning subcultures and avid collectors. There's few brands more dedicated to the cultivation of its own universe than Marc Jacobs – as evinced by its new collection, "HEAVEN."
Whether it's the now-memeified sweater tags, or the fact that Winona Ryder was blithely cast as the face of MJ Beauty after she was caught shoplifting the brand years before, Marc Jacobs sticks its tongue out in irreverence while keeping it firmly in cheek. The brand eschews the haughtiness of competing luxury labels in favor of having a sense of humor – which is where Ava Nirui and the new "HEAVEN" collection comes in.
Better known as @AvaNope, Nirui's high fashion bootlegs – Dior inhalers, Gucci x Champion hoodies - accelerated an aesthetic sensibility of recontextualizing luxury, and elevating the "high-meets-low" mantra to new, IRL extremes.
Marc Jacobs tells Highsnobiety how the partnership began: "Ava did a sweatshirt for Marc Jacobs, a kind of bootleg thing, and I was just charmed by it. She seemed to be really sensitive, interested and curious about this emerging creative community of young people and young artists. So we approached Ava last year about actually being a part of the Marc Jacobs family and giving her carte blanche to create a world within our world that would continue this kind of momentum, something in the early days of ’90s Marc Jacobs with a real respect for the spirit in which we built the company but done through a lens that was completely of this moment, you know?"
So now, in perfect ouroboros, Nirui, the serial bootlegger is at the top of the chain, holding titles such as head of Helmut Lang's digital creative strategy, and overseeing Special Projects for Marc Jacobs.
"I discovered Marc Jacobs around 7th or 8th grade, I think" says Nirui, who's calling from Long Island, "One of the first things I bought was a Marc by Marc Jacobs knit with detachable sleeves at a local thrift store. After I became familiar with the brand, it opened up doors to so many other interesting, secret subcultures. His foothold in the world of grunge introduced me to a lot of music I still love to this day — Courtney Love, Manson, Sonic Youth. His ties with Sofia Coppola and Harmony Korine led me to explore their films and form an obsession with cinema. This discovery was partially the catalyst for eventually enrolling in film school. To me, Marc and Marc Jacobs (the brand) were and are the epitome of all things cool and New York, and I am still so taken by his subversive roots and legacy."
This collection sees collaboration with a range of artists including illustrator Eri Waikayama, Australian brand Pelvis, Alake Shilling, Chris Cadever, Robert Engvall, and film director Gregg Araki, who lent his iconic graphics and slogans from his lo-fi cinematic universe to the collection's graphic tees.
Nirui notes how Araki's depictions of decadence, desire, destruction, and LGBT youth bears parallels to Marc Jacobs' affinity for the more unpalatable subcultures. "With Gregg, the first of his films that I saw was Mysterious Skin, and I think I was in my first year of high school and going through an identity crisis," says Nirui, "So I felt that movie really spoke to me. And I obviously, as a twisted teenager, I was really drawn to how fucked up it was."
At the crux of the collection is a two-headed teddy bear which is available as kitsch backpack as well as a graphic print on ribbed tees, "It's cute and it's really demented. I feel it's a really good representation of the brand. Because Marc Jacobs is classic, but there's also something very weird and freaky about it, provocative."
Rounding off the collection is a collaboration with FRUiTS, an iconic Japanese fashion magazine founded by Shoichi Aoki. In 2017 Aoki shuttered the magazine because "there are no more cool kids to photograph" – a depressing reflection on the state of organic street style – and one which "HEAVEN" is hopefully rectifying with its new lookbook starring, among others, Yoon Ahn of AMBUSH.
"Some time ago, when I was in Tokyo, I met with Aoki and he took a liking to the psychedelic spirit of Heaven," says Nirui, "We then commissioned him to capture 12 icons and friends of the MJ brand, self-styling Heaven in their own way. People like Hiromichi Ochai, Gin Satoh and Haruka Hirata are icons in Japanese creative landscape, and we also recruited the next gen and former MJ models like Daisaku and Kurebashi. It was beautiful to see mutual respect between Aoki and each of the subjects. Many of them grew up idolizing Aoki and wishing to be selected by him to grace the pages of FRUiTS. This was a “bucket list” project for many of those photographed."
You can shop the collection, priced between $35 - $395, here.