“But I can’t wait in line, I’m not wearing pants!” one girl says to the bouncer on North 6th Street on the sidewalk outside Music Hall of Williamsburg. I look over, and she’s not lying— her legs are bare in a tiny miniskirt beneath a black puffer jacket and some chunky platform boots, which appears to be the uniform of this evening. Just as the bouncer opens his mouth to say something I can only imagine will amount to “Your wardrobe choices don’t preclude you from waiting in the line,” someone else does it for him: A faceless voice calls out, “None of us are wearing pants! Back of the line.”
Welcome to the Heaven by Marc Jacobs postNYFW party, featuring special guests Deftones. Marc Jacobs, of course, was a major player of ’90s and ’00s fashion, known for intersecting grunge and preppy aesthetics as a pioneer of streetwear. In his early career, he designed a 1992 grunge collection for Perry Ellis that was never produced, and when he sent his commercially appropriated striped T-shirts and silk plaid button-ups to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, they later declared in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily: “We burned it. We were punkers—we didn’t like that kind of thing.”
Despite Cobain and Love’s ire, Jacobs went on to start his own line, and everyone else loved his high-market take on grunge fashion. His shows became star-studded affairs, the audience often including stars like Kim Gordon and Vincent Gallo. This new Heaven line is directly marketed to Gen-Z, launching in 2020 to intersect with the generation’s tastes for ’90s and early-aughts fashion—what I tend to describe as the “I’m the coolest alien” aesthetic, wherein hot people wear ugly clothes and the effect is very chic.
The Deftones party celebrated the brand’s newest collection, which lit up the cybersphere that same week with an ad campaign featuring what Variety called a “generation-spanning hodgepodge crew of Gen Z internet stars, Dimes Square micro-celebrities, and bold-faced stars like Michael Imperioli.” It leans into that Y2K aesthetic you would find on a carefully curated Depop store, rife with mesh mock turtlenecks, distressed baby tees, and platform shoes one might wear if they lived in the Matrix. Or actually wear if they want to seem like they would live in the Matrix, while they’re stomping around Dimes Square.
With all this added context, the decision to feature Deftones seems perfectly on the nose. The band has unintentionally cashed in on Gen-Z’s “vintage” tastes, with their track “Change (In the House of Flies)” from 2000’s White Pony reaching viral status on TikTok as of late. While this decision was both on-brand and—let’s face it—very cool, it did serve to reinvigorate the old criticisms of Marc Jacobs’ design ethos: What does it mean for a luxury brand (although admittedly, Heaven’s price points are attainable for your average Instagram influencer) to appropriate underground culture? Is it okay? Is it wrong? Or really, who cares?
The best way to articulate the overall aesthetic of the crowd at the Deftones show is a carefully curated meme shitpost dump. The guest list was an array of Al-generated human photographs, as though they should have all had six or seven fingers. If the vibe had an id, it would be that of the Bing chatbot in that New York Times story that came out in February. Like the Times tech columnist Kevin Roose, I wanted to ask it to reveal the dark desires of its Jungian shadow.
Before I go any further, I must reveal some personal bias: My dear friend produced this event, which is the only reason I got to go. She did a bang-up job. It was full of sexy, stylish people. And Deftones are a great band, but I’m also not really a Deftones fan—not because I don’t like the band, I just missed them sometime in my teens, somewhere between the Crazy Taxi soundtrack phase and the ravenous second-wave Britpop one. I basically nothing them, which I suspect makes me just the same as many of the people at this event. It was see and be seen, and I wanted to see, mostly. Frankly, I didn’t want to be seen at all—I dragged myself there out of a depressive funk on that cold Thursday evening in early March, clad in light-wash jeans, a black hoodie, and some Converse sneakers.
While the event was marketed as “free with RSVP,” it was open to the public only in theory. I doubt many runof-the-mill Deftones fans made it past those pearly gates; even the VIP guest-list line was cutthroat. I stood alone in a sea of vape clouds, raver sunglasses, and individuals wearing fishnet stockings as pants. Evidently everyone else was too important to patiently wait in said line, and so I told the frazzled door staff who scanned my QR code ticket: “You’re doing great.” He seemed grateful.
The guest list was an array of Al-generated human photographs, as though they should have all had six or seven fingers
On the inside, showgoers posed with the giant Marc Jacobs signage. Some shined their iPhone flashlights on their friends for better selfie lighting in the dark, foggy concert hall. Mia Carucci and Yves Tumor provided the opening entertainment, opting for a punishing industrial DJ set to coincide with Deftones’ nu-metal offerings.
We’ll never know what Deftones really thought of the event, because they “kindly” refused my interview request, but they did speak to Vogue about it (rude): “It was almost two years ago that Heaven (by Marc Jacobs) approached us; we were excited to see what they’d come up with,” said lead singer Chino, whose daughter is a fan of Heaven’s clothing. “We’ve noticed this surge of younger fans getting into our music, which is crazy because we’ve been doing this for 30-plus years.”
This is all well and good, albeit very polite. I was craving a hot take! So I took to the internet to track down the real tea, a survey of those who made it in and those who did not, ranging in emotion from resentment and cynicism to acceptance and astute cultural analysis.
Here’s what they said:
Leigh Barton, a 32-year-old fitness instructor and marketing director at Saint Vitus (as well as a veteran of the fashion industry), did not get in, and noted that it was “an interesting crossover, because for some reason,
Deftones is the one band that is somehow cool to every gatekeep-y person who thinks nu-metal is uncool.” She went on to say that “Marc Jacobs, as a brand, kind of went through the same thing for a while—the main line was a beloved brand, and then it became a little bit passe and run-of-the-mill stuff you could just get at any department store. But Heaven is really going after the alt vibe.”
This last point is worth considering, given that “alt” has become a wide-ranging, accessible, and furthermore socially acceptable aesthetic—anecdotally, you might note how commonplace “job-stopper” tattoos (anything on the hands, neck, or face) have become, or, more specifically, refer back to the many collaborations between Gucci and Surfbort, or the bootleg band tees you might find on the racks of any fast fashion store. But what’s strange is that while these “alt” kids used to be divided into tribes—punk, goth, emo, etc.—it has evolved into one overarching vibe: One is “alt,” or one is “basic.” And as such, while music culture has always relied on a very specific look that eschewed the conventionally fashionable, now that look has become the very thing that is fashionable. While I consider this fairly innocuous, it fills others with greater chagrin.
Take, for example, Kelsey Wagner, 31, a longtime Deftones fan and photographer who also didn’t get in. She is “so tired of fashion brands using high-profile artists to perform at their shows, to appear edgy but in result can make attending these events inaccessible for many fans who cannot afford to attend or are not part of the fashion industry’s ‘inner circle of cool kids.’ This creates a ‘circle jerk’ situation where the brands are leveraging the popularity of the artists to sell their products, while fans of the artist are left feeling excluded and disconnected from the music they love.”
I might counter that this was in fact a Fashion Week party, inherently a marketing tool to promote a clothing brand—one cannot be surprised, or even annoyed, really, that the fashion industry’s “inner circle of cool kids” was placed on a higher-priority guest list. Vogue reported that attendees included actress Rowan Blanchard, model/ musician Ruby Aldridge, and numerous other It People. And as such, for better or worse, no one is entitled to entry if they aren’t going to contribute to the brand’s bottom line or, at the very least, its panache. That said, her point is well taken, particularly when she went on to say that “live music is all about feeling a part of something greater than myself. It’s about connecting with other fans and sharing in the experience of seeing a band that we all love. But with events like this, there can often be a sense of exclusivity and elitism that just doesn’t sit well with me.”
On the other hand, let s talk to Sasha Mutchnik, the 26-year-old brains behind the meme page @starterpacksofnyc and fashion insider. I spied her in some photos from the event, and, having enjoyed her biting NYC scene commentary for years, I had to get her take on the whole spectacle. For fun, I asked her what she would put in a starter kit for the party. She came back with: a black puffer, a chunky shoe (from the Heaven line, naturally), an Elf Bar vape, a disposable camera, and a text bubble about getting photographed by the Cobrasnake. Chef’s kiss.
Like me, she doesn’t consider herself much of a Deftones fan, and she noticed the transparent shrewdness of selecting Deftones as the talent for the event, given that their 2022 season advertising campaign and party featured Doja Cat and Charli XCX.
Her take? “The Heaven aesthetic is really ’90s-driven, and early 2000s as well, but 1 would say that the choice to use Deftones was kind of teasing out some of the edginess of the more recent campaigns they’ve done, whereas 1 think a year ago, or even six months ago, it was more pastels, more pop. And so performers like Charli XCX and Doja and Pink Pantheress make more sense for that aesthetic.”
When I go back to peek at Heaven’s 2022 collection, I find that she’s right. While it’s tapping on the same ’90s/’00s references—lots of plaid, chunky shoes—it’s giving more Liv Tyler in Empire Records than Robin Tunney. The 2022 Heaven girl is pining after Rex Manning, and the 2023 Heaven girl is shaving her head in the bathroom.
It’s a lot more pink, and flirtatious. In the ad campaign, Michael Imperioli isn’t scowling at the end of a comically long sofa in a skeleton hoodie and Doc Martens—instead, Pamela Anderson is wearing a flouncy blue-gray minidress and posing like it’s a Playboy centerfold. So to that end, Deftones made the most sense, brand-wise. How much that annoys you is directly proportional to how much the appropriation of underground fashion by luxury designers annoys you on a more macrocosmic level, which is to say it’s entirely subjective.
Meaning, it annoys some more than others. It annoys Jay Papandreas, a 31-year-old writer in Brooklyn who didn’t get in, a lot. “The show/spectacle/ collab of it all is pretty wack,” he began. “At the end of the day, the biggest [Deftones] fanbase is old dudes with wallet chains who have to wear Dickies and Carhartt because they work under cars, not young dudes who wear Dickies and Carhartt to go to the bar and ghost women the next morning.”
Interestingly enough, he pointed out a gendered component to it: “I think there’s a vibe that Deftones are cooler because hot women like Deftones, but that’s always been true. And hot women like Deftones because Deftones are cool and sexy and visceral without being too aggressive.”
While perhaps a bit reductive, it tracks—Kelsey admitted to me that “naturally” (her word, not mine) her fandom with Deftones began in 2004 when a guy she had a crush on showed her the White Pony album: “Something about the way Deftones blended these heavy riffs with these dreamy, ethereal vocals just spoke to me.” And female music memelord @kornsexual is constantly posting Deftones content. But that visceral, slightly feminine sexiness is probably why Marc Jacobs tapped Deftones rather than, say, Korn, to play a Fashion Week party.
Against Jay’s point, I raise you my buddy Jason Bauers, a 37-year-old Brooklyn barber who happened to pop up behind me in line until the door staff informed him he would have to remove himself from the guest-list line and get in the GA one. He didn’t get in. Sorry I couldn’t have helped, Jason. I told you 1 was no better than any of the other posers in the guest-list line.
“The potential weirdness of this event was appealing to me,” he said, not being much of a fashionista himself, though he’s a lifelong Deftones fan. “From the outside, it looked a lot more like a Fashion Week party than a Deftones show. Lots of over-the-top outfits, people looking like they were there to be seen, and maybe not much else. Young people having vapid conversations. I was interested to see what kind of response these people would’ve had to Deftones had I gotten in. Would people be pitting? Stage diving? Staring in awe?
Ignoring? All of this at once?”
Allow me to fill in the blanks for Jason:
In the VIP section upstairs, lots of people were staring in awe, some of them ignoring, a few rocking out. But down on the main stage floor with the gen pop crowd, you saw a bit more rowdiness and enthusiasm (alas, no stage diving—it looked like it had a pretty high production value. No insurance claims, please). More people in gen pop knew the songs than in the VIP. Jason’s observations, while astute, were by no means resentful, merely curious. Unlike some of our brethren in this article, he seems to have come to radical acceptance of one inalienable fact: Right now, underground culture is high fashion and very monetizable, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it, even if we wanted to. With that in mind, I’ll let him have the final word:
“Thinking that I deserve to be there more than anyone else because I’ve listened to the band longer, or insisting that my experience being at the show is more valuable than yours because you’ve never heard of the band, is bullshit gatekeeping, and we certainly don’t need any more of that. If a Gen-Z Instagram influencer comes to a Marc Jacobs party and gets their wig flipped by Deftones, I think that’s awesome.”
Ditto, Jason. Party on.