Jacobs came to Parsons on the advice of Perry Ellis, a designer he met while working at innovative fashion boutique Charivari. “Perry was very gracious and introduced me to his design assistants, Jed Krascella and Patricia Pastor, who were Parsons graduates. He said that if I were serious about fashion — which I was — I should go to Parsons. So when the guidance counselor asked what I planned after high school, I said I was applying to Parsons. I knew that not many people were accepted, but I was jaded and pretty audacious. I said, ‘I’m going to Parsons or I’m not going to school.’ The counselor replied, ‘That’s not very sensible. You need a backup plan. ‘ But I don’t believe in backup plan B’s. Parsons was my plan A.”
Fast-forward four years, and Jacobs’ senior thesis — three Op-Art sweaters hand-knitted by his grandmother — gained immediate industry acclaim, winning him the Design Student of the Year award, the Perry Ellis Gold Thimble Award, and the Chester Weinberg Gold Thimble Award. Jacobs’ senior work also caught the eye of industry executive Robert Duffy, who immediately hired Jacobs to design for various lines and eventually served as Jacobs’ business right hand for thirty years.
Jacobs defined a decade of style, beginning in 1986, after he and Duffy launched his eponymous line. Jacobs continued to attract industry attention while designing for a number of fashion companies including Perry Ellis, where he presented his infamous 1993 “grunge” collection.
In 1997, Jacobs was appointed creative director of Louis Vuitton, where he created the company’s first ready-to-wear collections and for more than 16 years oversaw innovative collaborations and marketing of Louis Vuitton pieces, including accessories made with artists Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince. He also pioneered elaborately staged fashion presentations, raising the creative bar for Paris Fashion Week.
Jacobs is one of the industry’s most decorated designers. In 1987, he became the youngest recipient of the CFDA’s Womenswear Designer of the Year Award. Jacobs subsequently won two CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year awards, an Accessory Designer of the Year award four times, and the Menswear Designer of the Year award in 2002. In 2011, Jacobs received the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement prize.
With more than 200 stores worldwide, Jacobs has established a globally influential presence since graduating from Parsons, emphasizing offbeat, everyday luxury with each of his lines. Jacobs has been a source of inspiration to young designers as a guest lecturer at Parsons and has also been a two-time honoree at Parsons’ annual benefit. Jacobs’ company is also dedicated to philanthropic efforts and has been involved with more than 60 charities throughout Jacobs’ career.