Pin It
Marc by Marc

Girls Gone Wild: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc

Motorbikes, Madonna and Munchkins – Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley's new rule-breaking era of MBMJ

Taken from the Autum/Winter 2014 issue of Dazed:

Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley are musing over the idea of superpowers: “If I had 
an invisibility cloak, I would just sit inside Marc’s office for the day,” Bartley giggles as she takes a 
drag from her cigarette. “It would be a bit mean. At some point 
I would have to stick my arm 
out and go, ‘I’m here! Sorry, I’ll leave now!’ But it really is 
the most exciting place to be.” 
Just a few months ago the duo 
took the reins of Marc by Marc Jacobs – the secondary line conceived by the brand for SS01 – and injected it with an aggressive new attitude. Pulling together a mash-up of cultural references – from the eerie Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz to Japanese manga girls – Hillier and Bartley created a pop-militant collection of graphic prints and sharp tailoring, topped off 
with pigtails borrowed from Wednesday Addams. 

Cult image-maker and jewellery designer Judy Blame (whom they cite as their “hero”) collaborated on accessories dangling with vinyl records and found charms, 
whilst Fergus “Fergadelic” Purcell (the mastermind behind the Palace skate logo) worked on the graphic codes 
of the collection. “I said, ‘Let’s go hard,’” he explains. “I was drawing on the motocross references 
I had stored in my imagination – the lairy print techniques made available in the 90s – but hopefully mistranslating them in order 
to bring something fresh to it.” 
It ignited an intoxicating rebirth that could only be conceived 
by two slightly crazy (and 
I mean that as a compliment) 
British girls.

Today the duo are working from their studio at the Rochelle School 
in East London, where they 
are rewriting the rules 
of the fashion world for next 
season. Having met almost 15 years ago at a pub with 
stylist Katie Grand, they’ve 
become fashion’s most exciting double act (during our interview they finish each other’s 
sentences and crack up into hysteric laughing fits like two naughty teenagers). 
It’s clear that with them at 
the helm, the possibilities for Marc by Marc Jacobs are truly 
endless and will always be served with a dose of British humour.

What was it like pole dancing with Phoebe Philo and Liberty Ross on the cover of the first issue of POP?

Katie Hillier: That was so much fun!

Luella Bartley: Oh god, that’s been on Instagram!

Katie Hillier: We had no idea what the set was going to be like. We just got to the shoot and there was a big platform with a pole on it and that was that! Phil (Poynter) was like, ‘C’mon then girls! (laughs)’

Luella Bartley: I was not a happy bunny!

Katie Hillier: I remember there was just one pole, so everyone did it individually and then got placed together. Actually, the other day I was at the BA lounge in Heathrow and there was this woman watching pole dancing competitions on her computer! She was just watching it in front of her family!

Luella Bartley: It’s a big thing now. The shoot was another one of Katie Grand’s little tricks! But it was good fun! I think it really summed up a big moment for us.

In a similar way, your Marc by Marc Jacobs debut felt like it ignited a whole new moment and attitude for New York – one that was rooted in a new fearless female power.

Luella Bartley: We didn’t go into it to try and put out some sort of feminist manifesto. It’s just in us. It’s great to make great clothes, but for me it’s such an important thing to have a voice – especially in that industry. We wanted to create something that girls can feel strong in. 
The Marc by Marc girl has always been strong and feisty.

Katie Hiller: It’s something everyone can be; it’s not some sort of exclusive gang.

Did you both grow up with that attitude?

Luella Bartley: I didn’t. 


Katie Hiller: Did you not?

Luella Bartley: I was quite timid. I think that’s why it’s all coming out now!

Katie Hillier: I was really shouty! (laughs)

Luella Bartley: I think I want my daughter to 
be shouty. I remember being a teenager and being full of insecurity, anxiety, worry and existential crap! It was a horrible experience. I found my teenage years quite challenging but I think the new generation of young girls seem like a really strong bunch. I certainly want my daughter to have that. I want her to get dressed for herself and not just to try to impress a boy. I think I did 
that. I dressed to try and impress boys! (laughs)

So Katie, were you the rebellious one then?

Luella Bartley: She was the raver!

Katie Hillier: (laughs) Yeah, I was. I remember being quite narky at school and doing some naughty things. I liked hanging with the boys. I didn’t dress for them but I liked hanging out with them, almost to the point where I was a bit like a boy.

What were the naughty things?

Katie Hillier: Well, my friend came into school with his motorbike, which was not allowed. He drove into the school playground and I decided it would be a really good idea to get on it. We were suspended for it. 
It was fun though!

Luella Bartley: Naughty.

Who were the female icons that you looked up to as teenagers?

Luella Bartley: I don’t think I really had any until I was in my twenties.

Katie Hillier: For me, it has to be Madonna! As a kid, my entire bedroom 
was covered in Madonna posters, fanzines and tear-outs from Smash Hits. It always changed month 
to month, so I would go through her different phases. One month it would be from Like a Prayer
 and then from Desperately Seeking Susan. I always think she was 
such a good role model, even when she went a bit controversial. 
I loved that scene where she’s 
in the toilets getting changed and she’s drying her pits. It was just like, ‘Fuck, look how cool 
she looks!’ I remember she just went into a toilet to get changed, dried off her pits and was 
ready to go!

“It was just like, ‘Fuck, look how cool 
she looks!’ I remember she just went into a toilet to get changed, dried off her pits and was 
ready to go!” – Katie Hillier

Luella Bartley: Didn’t she keep everything inside a locker at the train station?

Katie Hillier: Yeah and she always 
had that suitcase. I loved that accessory and the leather jacket 
with the pyramid.

The first collection had such a mix of cultural references – from motocross graphics to manga girls – what drew 
you to them?

Luella Bartley: There were a lot of quite random things on our board! But everything had a reason. The motocross references were about our girl not being the girlfriend 
of the person who owned the 
bike, but she rode the bike – 
she had that independence and feistiness. There were Power Rangers on the board, samurai armour and even Oompa Loompas! The plaid in the collection 
came from the shirts of the 
Oompa Loompas. That’s an exclusive for you!

Katie Hillier: Get that! It wasn’t a reference from another vintage plaid. Just from the world wide interweb!

Luella Bartley: There was also a reference to skipping, that whole Double Dutch thing. It was really about creating that energy. We were listening to this girl. What was she called?

Katie Hillier: It was Sharaya J’s song, “Banji”.

Luella Bartley: Yes, this mad feminist rapper with blue hair! Then we had the Alice in Wonderland song in the show, which was slightly more romantic. It was all about this mix of cultures and attitudes. It all had a youthful energy – I mean the samurais aren’t particularly youthful but the Power Rangers were.

And the Oompa Loompas!

Luella Bartley: Oh wait, no! The reference wasn’t Oompa Loompas! They were Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz!

Katie Hillier: Oh yeah, Oompa Loompas are from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! (laughs)

Luella Bartley: Yes, sorry, it was the Munchkins! It was much more dark! They were really quite odd pictures but 
I quite like mixing up those different cultural references and they didn’t necessarily have a thread but they all felt like the same kind 
of tough attitude.

What was it like working with Fergus Purcell?

Luella Bartley: Fergus is very cool and the whole thing was such a cool collaboration, but I do love that the whole thing came about from a school run! (laughs) He works with my friend Sofia on their brand Aries and she’s got a kid at the same school as mine. One time, during the school run, we just started chatting.

Katie Hillier: No, we all went to watch a tap dancing recital.

Luella Bartley: Oh yeah, that’s true! I made Katie go. We were having a research day and I said, ‘Oh shit, it’s the tap dance recital!’ She’s like, ‘What?’
I forced her to come with me and then she ended up knowing everyone 
at school!

Katie Hillier: Yeah, I did actually!

Luella Bartley: I love the graphics he did for Palace. I really liked that the whole collaboration felt very genuine. It wasn’t us trying to do street graphics. I think Fergus and the guys from Palace were really interested in reaching a different audience as well. It doesn’t really seem like a cliché anymore for a fashion brand to use street graphics. He came in, looked at the boards and got really excited because he loves that sort of motocross aesthetic.

Katie Hillier: He just kept sending things, didn’t he? You could tell when he was having a manic episode of creativity, like, what about this? What about this? What about this? Then the other thing we had to 
do was to get everything past the legal department…

Luella Bartley: That was quite funny in itself! Sadly, the samurai sword was a little in the wrong position. (laughs) (In Fergus’s own words: “It looked like a cock.”)

Katie Hillier: The samurai swords stayed!

And Judy Blame?

Katie Hillier: I’ve always loved Judy’s work. I was so drawn to the spirit of that whole scene – you know, they didn’t have a lot of money and their attitude was just to say, ‘Fuck it, let’s just see how it goes!’ They were a whole team, photographers and artists who were their friends. It was about this amazing gang of kids creating these iconic images.

What advice did Marc give you before the show?

Luella Bartley: He gave us such freedom. He wasn’t trying to micro-manage, but sometimes he would say just one sentence and it would veer you in another direction and it would just change our whole thinking. It was great to have that kind of mentor, someone who has been doing it for so long but just gets you. I hope that one day I will be able to deal with culture in the way he uses culture. For me, design has always been bigger than the actual garment. It’s always been about the collision of music, art and writing – all of those things coming together. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to. It was almost unique to him – nobody else dealt with that level of culture. He does it so well and has such great collaborators. 
It’s something I’ve always tried to do in my own collections. We are fans. We’re working for someone that we have really loved and admired.

Katie Hillier: Totally.

Do you have a favourite Marc Jacobs moment?

Katie Hillier: For me, it was his show on September 10th (the day before the terrorist attacks in New York). I remember they were playing The Rolling Stones’s “She’s a Rainbow” and there was a whole wall of fresh flowers. After the show had finished the whole wall came down and everyone went through to this party on the pier. There was this huge banquet table like The Last Supper. I was stood next to Debbie Harry and Sofia Coppola was there. All of Marc’s friends were there and it wasn’t because they were being paid to attend, it’s because they truly wanted to support him. It was a really fucking awesome party! 
I think that was the last time I really saw anything on that grand scale that felt really…

That had an impact.

Katie Hillier: Yeah, it was a genuine full-on extravaganza – it was amazing.



Luella Bartley: Did the parties change or did you change, I wonder?

Katie Hillier: Hmmm…

Luella Bartley: It must have been the parties. They became much more aware didn’t they? We sound really 
old. Aww, remember the good old days? (both laugh)

hair Federico Ghezzi at CLM using Unite; make-up Niamh Quinn at LGA; models Julie Hoomans at Storm, Dani Witt and Dasha Gold at Next, and Margarita Pugovka at Elite; photographic assistant Ryan O’Toole; styling assistant Stella Notes; hair assistants Carolyn Gallyer, Cecile Hildebrant; printing Daren Catlin; casting Noah Shelley