Marc Jacobs sets his own runway rules, from which models will strut there to his sartorial choices for them—or lack thereof, it seems.
One of the most shared images on social media from February’s Fall 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City was that of then 18-year-old model Lily McMenamy walking Jacobs’ runway wearing nothing but pin-striped hot pants, opera-length gloves, and patent heels—with her arm strategically draped over her breasts. And now the brunette newcomer, 19, has teamed up with Jacobs again: She’s set to front his Fall 2013 ad campaign.
McMenamy, the daughter of ’90s supermodel Kristen McMenamy, first divulged that she’s working on the Marc Jacobs ad campaign—her first for a major designer—to Vogue, telling the magazine that the shoot kept her “in Central Park until 2 a.m.” She also revealed some details about how that topless runway moment was born: “First I couldn’t really believe that they were asking me to go topless, and then they were, like, ‘We’re being serious,’ and so I was, like, ‘All right. Fine,’” she said. She also explained that she and Jacobs talked at length about her “hand positioning,” with him deciding it would be classier if she drape one arm over her breasts rather than obscure them with both hands. That was McMenamy’s third-ever runway show; she had also walked for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
The topless runway show wasn’t the first time Jacobs has courted controversy: In early 2012, after the Council of Fashion Designers of America asked designers to commit to a no-models-under-16 standard, he flouted their guidelines by allowing at least two 14-to-15-year-old models walk his runway. Out of the approximately fifty models he hired for his show that season, at least two were under 16, the New York Times reported: Thairine Garcia and Ondria Hardin, both believed to be either 14 or 15. Both girls were represented by the Ford modeling agency, which had stated that the company, while in favor of the health initiative, works on a case-by-case basis with the models’ parents when it comes to determining whether they’re old enough to walk the runway.
“You have child actors and children who model for catalogs,” he told TIME of the decision. “What’s the difference between doing a commercial for peanut butter and being on a runway?” And Jacobs claimed there was no controversy in his choices: “I was just kind of doing what I felt,” he says, adding without a hint of irony, “I don’t ever mean to be provocative.”