Marc Jacobs’ Heaven Saves Gen-Z From the Pits of Fast-Fashion Hell

musician Nikki Minaj in a short tee shirt and fishnet tights

Two-headed plush bears. Graffiti-printed oversized tees. Vibrant wool sweaters. Goth butterfly earrings. These are just some of the statement-making pieces in Marc Jacobs’ new collection “Heaven,” an alternative clothing-line that focuses on young-hearted people yearning to be individualistic in their fashion choices, and specializes in emo-grunge aesthetics, psychedelic prints, 2000s internet-pop nostalgia, and a sexy, seductive style.

girl in pink sweater and platform boots

Model in Heaven campaign. Photo by Harvey Weir, 2022.

Marc Jacobs delivers an array of textures among his unique pieces. Loud mesh prints. Graphic cotton tees. Fuzzy mohair. Sparkly leather. The effervescent use of materials is present throughout each Heaven collection. Each unique textile comes with an even more uncommon color, pattern, and design. The model shown on the right, for example, is wearing a distressed, hairy sweater designed “to wear with time” according to the website. The sweater itself is made with an interesting blend of Barbie-pink yarn: 38% Acrylic, 32% Polyamide, and 30% Mohair.

While Heaven was made public for fashion addicts in 2020, origins of the brand date all the way back to the late 2000s. Steff Yotka, writer for Vogue Magazine, describes her youth shopping at the niche little fashion store in 2009, recalling how “you could buy T-shirts with naked Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus on them. Condoms cost $1.50 and were in a bottomless silver bin next to lipstick pens and key fobs and bandanas…” The spirit of Heaven remains true to its roots today: tacky, youthful, and rebellious.

But the question is, in the age where fast-fashion brands such as Shein, Fashion Nova, and Princess Polly are more accessible to teen audiences (and more affordable), what’s the big deal about Heaven? Why does it have such a choke hold on Gen-Z and the fashion industry?

split image of two models one in a skirt and socks the other in pants and sweater vest

Models for Heaven campaign. Photo by Shoichi Aoki in Tokyo. 2020

One answer can be found in Heaven’s choice of models. If you log on to the Heaven website, you will find a wide variety of models that not only meet the mark in diversity of race, gender, and body type, but also in diversity of style. Each model looks like a young fashionista scouted on the vibrant streets of New York City, honing in on the idea that their consumers can achieve whatever aesthetic they want, and that they have the ability to look like a Heaven model. Aside from the everyday models, Heaven’s use of celebrities is unlike other fashion brands today. From using Gen-Z-adored musicians such as Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, and Steve Lacy to ’90s icons like Pamela Anderson and Kyle MacLachlan, Heaven’s clothes are for all ages. Anyone who wants to experiment and be part of the Heaven universe can do so un-apologetically.

Musician steve lacey in a super charged mesh shirt, lighting some smokeable object

Musician Steve Lacy for Heaven. Photo by Harvey Weir, 2022.

While Shein and Fashion Nova are notorious for using hazardous materials and exploiting underpaid workers, Heaven tries its best to put forward a sustainable approach to its products. As stated on the Marc Jacobs website, “all of our suppliers operate under strict requirements to ensure our products are safe, which include complying with all laws, rules and regulations on a worldwide basis.” Marc Jacobs is also very transparent about the room for improvement in their environmentally-conscious efforts, reassuring that they “… strive to reach the goal of zero impact on the environment, and while there’s more work to do, we pursue that goal aggressively.”

But with that being said, Heaven promotes sustainability in a subtle and creative way: by working with small, independent artists and businesses. Whether it’s an online bookstore focused on erotica and vintage counterculture like Climax Books, or an independent artist who has a series of reworked stuffed animals called Bears Who Care, Marc Jacobs’ niche collaborations are inherently sustainable, encouraging its audience to be aware of the ethical values of its partners and to support small businesses.

Heaven is described as “a gateway into the sprawling and enigmatic omniverse of Marc Jacobs.” It isn’t just a clothing brand, but rather an entirely new space, a community that resides beyond this Earth. It’s a space where the weird is aspirational and cool. Queerness. Teen angst. Niche ’80s references. Heaven is nothing like anything we’ve seen. When you’re entering the Heaven shop, you’re setting foot into a new experience — a whole new dimension where the line between cool and weird is so blurry that it’s silly to think that the line even exists. In Heaven, being weird is the goal.

BONUS CONTENT: Check out this sixty second video documenting the origins and history of the term “supermodel.”

Video and post produced for Multimedia Storytelling course Fall 2022.

Justin George is a 4th year at USF, with a major in Marketing and a minor in Media Studies. In his free time, he enjoys discovering new music, going to the gym, and learning more about fashion and film/TV.