Just before receiving an award Tuesday night from his alma mater, the Parsons School of Design, Jacobs recalled the cloud of giddy exhaustion under which he worked at school, where he'd toil around the clock with fellow student (and now, noted fellow designer) Tracy Reese.
"Tracy and I worked all the time on our homework," he said in an interview. "I mean, we'd work so hard and be so tired — we wouldn't have any sleep. We'd get so tired that we'd be giddy, we'd just get the giggles."
Jacobs, who for years has been one of fashion's biggest names, said he never could have imagined the position he would one day occupy. "I always dreamed of being a working fashion designer, but I never knew what proportion it would take," he said. "And I am still amazed by it. Every new thing we get to do and every change that we make, I just think how fortunate I am. But I wouldn't say it's lucky, because I had the opportunity and I prepared for that opportunity. And I pushed myself. And others pushed me."
Jacobs received his award from the acknowledged arbiter of the fashion world, Anna Wintour. The Vogue editor noted in her introduction that in a world that can be filled "with superficiality," Jacobs' "feet are always firmly planted on the ground." He is one designer who doesn't take himself too seriously, she said.
Accepting his award, Jacobs lived up to that description by explaining that had he not succeeded as a fashion designer, he would have become a video store clerk.
That, he said, was his only Plan B, and that's what he told his high school guidance counsellor.
"I wouldn't have had a very long career as a video store clerk, since video stores don't exist anymore," Jacobs quipped.
Tuesday's Parsons benefit, which raised $1.7 million according to school officials, also honoured the French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and included a fashion show featuring designs from Parson's 2015 graduates — an opportunity that, Jacobs noted, had helped launch his own career many years earlier.
Now 52, Jacobs designed and sold a line of sweaters while still a Parsons student. He was creative director of Louis Vuitton for 16 years, from 1997 to 2013, and currently heads his own Marc Jacobs label as well as the lower-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line.
In the interview, Jacobs said he can't put his finger on what makes some talented designers succeed while some others do not.
"I don't know," he said. "I try to concentrate and ... do the best job I can. And I'm not always perfect — in fact, I'm never perfect. But I do the best I can and I give It my all. I don't give up. Even when I'd like to."