All of this Marc Jacobs Bashing Could be Illegal

Marc Jacobs, the man and the brand, seems to be the topic of discussion for everyone as of late. On the heels of a damning expose-type article published by the New York Post two weeks ago, the New York-based daily paper issued another article, detailing an alleged 10-person orgy of Jacobs’s. And not surprisingly, the Post has published yet another article on the famed designer, this time with commentary from Fern Mallis.

The outspoken fashion figure, who is known for helping to launch New York Fashion Week during her tenure as Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1991-2001, suggests that the absence of Jacobs’s long-time business partner, Robert Duffy, is likely to blame for Jacobs’s “unfocused” behavior. You may recall that Duffy stepped down from his position as CEO last year when Sebastian Suhl came onboard from fellow LVMH-owned brand, Givenchy, to help prepare the MJ brand for its impending IPO.

Speaking of Jacobs’s open letter response to the New York Post’s article two weeks ago, Mallis said: “Clearly he does not have the team in place that normally would manage and handle that with a temperate response. If you read between the lines, you get a little sense that people are worrying that Marc is not focused right now. I actually loved his last collection. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s really got so much going on there, so much energy.’ But I think not having [former business partner] Robert Duffy by his side is hurting him.”

A lot has changed in the world of Marc Jacobs, the man and the brand, over the past couple years, in particular. Jacobs left his position as creative director of Louis Vuitton in 2013, following a 15-year tenure. This has given him the freedom to take the helm of his New York-based eponymous label full time, which is currently undergoing significant change – from the closure of the lower-end Marc by Marc Jacobs collection to the change in executives (think: Duffy out, Suhl in). Additionally, there are been the social media mishaps, the nude Instagram post, etc., which have put Jacobs in a less than favorable light.

Is it necessary to publicly comment and draw attention to Jacobs’s alleged lack of focus? I’m not so sure. Is it helpful? I’m even less sure about that. However, one thing that can be said for sure is that publications need to be very careful about what they write and what their sources are actually claiming because there is a fine line between edgy reporting and defamation, or libel, more specifically, which applies to published articles.

While the standard for proving libel if the individual suing is a public figure (like Marc Jacobs) is higher, it is still worth noting that it isn't impossible and articles centered on his alleged penchant for orgies and drugs could be legally problematic in accordance with New York law if they "tend to expose the plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace, or induce an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons,” Rinaldi v. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 42 N.Y.2d 369, 379 (1977). Moreover, if such accusations would negatively impact his business, they are even more likely to give rise to a successful cause of action. 

In short, if publications are printing inaccurate and damaging information about Jacobs, they could be looking at a court battle.