But yearning for the States is not something he suffers greatly from. Asked to sum up his feelings for Paris, Marc Jacobs—the born and bred New Yorker, the darling of downtown, the arch cool international designer—turns into a marshmallow. "I feel like I'm on a magnificent chessboard and I'm a player being moved around this amazing game," he gushes. "I just really love it."
His life in Paris is everything it wasn't in New York. Just the night before the interview, close friends Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of the band Sonic Youth had stayed with Jacobs. "They often bring their six-year-old daughter, Coco," says Jacobs. "And that's when I love my apartment most, when it's filled with guests. That's a life I never had in New York."
He has even turned house-proud (and this from the man who gave us grunge), developing a passion for furniture by mid-20th-century French designers Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. "In New York, I didn't care about my living space because I was always out. I met my friends in bars, clubs, restaurants," he reflects. "Whereas in Paris I love to have people over. So all of a sudden I'm buying fruit bowls."
Still, Jacobs—brought up on a steady diet of Studio 54 and indie rock—looks as if he's having trouble digesting the fact that he's purchasing fruit bowls, even a groovy bowl designed by Ettore Sottsass, shaped like the Parthenon, and "quite a conversation piece in the middle of the coffee table." He found it, along with the Prouvé and Perriand pieces and a beautiful Gae Aulenti lamp, at a favorite shop on the Rue de Seine: Galerie Downtown, which specializes in furniture from the 1950's. "The guy [owner François Laffanour] has a great eye—it's fantastic."
Jacobs has always had a retro sensibility in his designs, finding inspiration in the cut of a coat from the sixties or the hang of a seventies maxi skirt. So it's not surprising that, come the weekend, he can be found trawling the Paris flea markets—still a sure source of secondhand booty for the fashion crowd.
He tends to head to the Marché aux Puces de Vanves in the south or to the Porte de Clignancourt. "I have this thing about old clothes, old shoes, and handbags," admits Jacobs, who's always on the hunt for vintage Charles Jourdan footwear and anything Halston.
Jacobs and his design team also frequent Didier Ludot, a dealer in couture and luxury accessories from the early 1900's to now, located in the serene gardens of the Palais Royal. This is vintage shopping of the superior kind, with racks of rustling silk dresses and suits for ladies who lunch by Balenciaga, Chanel, Vionnet, and Dior, as well as Hermès bags and Vivier and Perugia shoes.
"It's kind of a cop-out, in that it's all pre-edited and phenomenally expensive," shrugs Jacobs, "but sometimes we can't resist. I think it's the best selection of vintage anywhere." His most recent purchase was a flat 1970's crocodile handbag that the whole Vuitton studio is currently obsessing over. Sometimes Jacobs spends the day with Tiger, simply wandering all over town. "I look in every shopwindow, and I find everything so appealing, so enticing—even things I really have no interest in buying," he says. "I find myself mesmerized."
After three years, he has honed his list of restaurant haunts and has adopted a Rive Gauche bias. For dinner his local is Brasserie Lipp, just a five-minute walk from his apartment. It's that typical Parisian brasserie mix of St.-Tropez tans and sneaker-shod tourists, all whipped into shape by waiters with an attitude. Sunday night is the chicest time to go: it's sneaker-lite and humming with the likes of Lionel Jospin and Lauren Bacall.
Jacobs has his own Lipp ritual: he always orders the archetypal meal of a dozen snails and then steak au poivre with french fries, finishing with the house delight, a mille-feuille (Lipp diners have been known to fight over the last remaining pastry). "I used to come to Lipp when I was younger, and it's still the same. I like that you can't use cell phones there. I even like the grouchy waiters."
For a more "fashiony" place, Jacobs heads farther south to Natacha, an artlessly cool bistro tucked away on a residential street in the 14th Arrondissement. On a Saturday night, you sweep back the velvet curtain at the entrance and step into a pure Paris social club filled with bold-faced names such as Mario Testino, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, plus the odd tourist—of the Madonna—Leonardo DiCaprio kind. "It's one of my favorite places to go because it's like a party. I always know people there, and I always have a fun time hanging out and eating," says Jacobs.
Also strong on fashion ambience is Le Stresa, an unassuming-looking Italian restaurant with Peter Beard photos on the walls and balding scarlet carpets. "I absolutely love the food," says Jacobs, recommending the tender vitello alla milanese (breaded veal sautéed in butter) and a dolce nougatine (part ice cream, part pistachio meringue). "For me it's like the Da Silvano of Paris." The crowd here is mainly buffed and glossy, although the sugar daddies tend to make an appearance on the weekends.
For a more contemporary feel, he heads to Georges, where he dined just the week before with fashion hero Azzedine Alaïa. Once in a while he'll go to Paul Minchelli for the superb fish and seafood, cooked with plenty of tomato, basil, olive oil, and steam. "For someone who doesn't eat a lot of fish, it's kind of amazing that I love it there," jokes Jacobs. He raves about the pasta dish with lobster that "feels like a meal and dessert all in one."