c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — Even if Marc Jacobs were not the most celebrated American designer working on two continents, he would be described in terms of a separate country. People hold him apart from Fashion Week. They say, “Let’s see what Marc does on Thursday night.”

Well, Thursday night came. As usual, he surprised people.

A rainstorm hit just as guests arrived at the armory on Lexington Avenue. Inside, it was like an oven; it certainly felt as if the humidity of the past several days had been trapped in there. Fans and bottled water were handed out. I didn’t hear anyone complain, though maybe they were too stunned and tired.

The set for the show resembled a blackened, littered beach, with a broken-down bus, a huge lifeguard stand partly swept with sand and a wooden pier at the far end of the armory. Snaking through the set was an elevated runway covered in black sand. There were quite a few cigarette butts ground into it.

It took awhile for the models to get close enough to really see what they were wearing. The first ones wore maroon or cadet blue jackets embellished with black braid and tassels. Hamish Bowles, reviewing the collection for Vogue, made reference to Mary Todd Lincoln, and though he was including the elaborate leg-o-mutton sleeve gowns with beading that closed the show, the 1860s cue (minus the period underpinnings) feels right.

The collection’s other looks included chunky leaf-patterned tops and skirts (possibly a take on surfer prints), and darkly colored sweatshirts with beaded skirts. The models wore identical streaky blond wigs seemingly hacked with dull scissors.

My first thought was a calamity caused by global warming. What else could explain the out-of-season clothes and the detritus on the beach, not to mention great-granny’s old duds?

But, with Jacobs, there’s always a better explanation. Afterward, he ticked off Burning Man, the art event in Nevada; a frat party on a beach; and Paul McCarthy’s work “White Snow.” Then, noting that the model Jamie Bochert is a muse, he said, “She always comes in wearing these beautiful old clothes.”

He shrugged. “Self-expression. Nothing new. Just good old self-expression.”

No, it wasn’t new. And for those hoping for a show as stimulating as Jacobs’ last one, with at least good food for thought, this one seemed to lack vital nutrients. The influences that Jacobs cited were all interesting, yet somehow they yielded little new information about design and self-expression. The braided jackets were striking, but I recall that when Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons did a version of a 19th-century style, it seemed newly minted in her imagination. And while I also think that many people don’t always think about seasons when they buy clothes, the heaviness here is hard to overlook.

It was a spasmodic week of fashion shows. There were a few very good collections — compelling as well as wearable. In that group, I would include Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, Joseph Altuzarra, Louise Goldin, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors and Alexander Wang. Proenza Schouler was tricky, mainly because of the somewhat stilted concept, but it’s worth checking out.

Some of the shorter, crisper proportions look right, but frankly, so do the longer lengths at Kors, Altuzarra and Carolina Herrera. Texture trumps pattern for spring, except for all kinds of stripes, and layering is subtle (see Altuzarra and Rodriguez).