Asked to describe what his company was like 15 years ago, Marc Jacobs International president Robert Duffy says breezily, “It was teeny.” Today the fashion powerhouse is heading toward $1 billion in annual sales, with two flagship stores and an IPO. “I just say the most important thing is that everybody remain calm,” says Duffy.
Remaining calm in an industry where “in” can be “out” in a blink involves partnerships—partnerships that Duffy and designer Marc Jacobs have carefully cultivated for years. Back in the late 1990s, when the company was just a 10-person team and beginning its first foray into retail, Duffy enlisted New York'based architect Stephan Jaklitsch to help the label shape an architectural identity. Together they have grown the brand to 285 freestanding boutiques.