Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley

In the three short seasons since Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley have taken over as creative heads at Marc by Marc Jacobs (Hillier as creative director and Bartley as design director for ready-to-wear), the two have already established themselves as far more than stewards for a brand on autopilot. Their debut collection for fall 2014, a cavalcade of urban ninjas and BMX-inspired looks, tolled a new era for the sibling label to the Marc Jacobs brand. Such a successful transition undoubtedly came about due to Hillier’s familiarity with the label, having worked with Jacobs for 13 years as accessories consultant (she also oversees her own namesake jewelry line), and also because of Hillier and Bartley’s bond. Best friends since the later ’90s, the two share what they both describe as a kind of psychic kinship. “In terms of the conceptual way of working, we very much are together,” says Hillier. It’s that close connection that allows them to oversee the label from London, where they’re primarily based, while also enabling them to work apart whenever necessary.

For both women, the larger challenge of running such a widely recognized brand springs from an awareness of what they’ve taken on: the 15-year-old Marc by Marc Jacobs label reportedly accounts for the majority of business at Marc Jacobs International. “It’s a balancing act between commerciality and creativity,” says Bartley, who designed her own popular womenswear collection for ten years (on a decidedly smaller scale), until 2009. The duo achieved that synthesis rather brilliantly through the label’s latest ad campaigns, shot by David Sims (Bartley’s husband), and starring a lineup of fresh faces cast from Instagram (#CastMeMarc). Katie Grand, another close friend, oversaw the styling. Says Bartley: “There’s a spontaneity and fun to it. And I think that’s all part of collaborating and brainstorming, and just being with people who you get inspired by.”

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