Marc Jacobs at Sant Ambroeus New York

In my kitchen I have a framed cutout from a 1989 issue of Vanity Fair. It's a Steven Meisel photo of designer Marc Jacobs, then a longhaired darling of the fashion world, nude in bed save for a pair of black motorcycle boots. Yes, I was a fan. Flash forward to 2014, and Jacobs has just celebrated three decades of his global fashion empire and is approaching the one-year anniversary of his departure from Louis Vuitton, where he served as creative director for 16 years. Although Jacobs went through a chubby and schlubby phase, he's looking more fantabulously fit than ever and filling out his Adidas track pants better than most men half his age. We meet at Sant Ambroeus in the West Village, and from the moment we sit down to nibble on our pasta (tagliatelle bolognese for Marc, penne pomodoro for me), Marc is sincere, sweet and ready to talk about anything. Being gays, we naturally discuss porn stars and Grindr; even on such salacious topics he's thoughtful, candid and totally real. After our lunch, I'm more of a fan than ever.

So it's your 30th anniversary, you have now left Vuitton, it's all about Marc Jacobs...

I didn't even know it was my 30th anniversary! I'm really bad with time. It's almost shocking, because I think I'm very aware of things, but there is something about time and dates that I just have a block about. Time doesn't... I don't register it really well.

Do you follow what's happening at Louis Vuitton? Or are you kind of like an ex-wife and you don't want to see what's going on since you've gone?

I had a hard time looking at it at first. I think I got pretty down and depressed, but I love what Nicolas [Ghesquière] does. I really admire him and I have really great respect for him. I think they wanted a change, and I think the change they made is really good. It would be worse if somebody was doing a similar thing to me. But Nicolas does his thing, and I think it looks good and I get it. So I don't have any problem with it.

My mother loves your fragrances, by the way. She puts them out at Christmas as Christmas decorations 'cause they have such fabulous bottles! Are there other worlds you want to conquer?

I don't really think that way. When we first started doing fragrance, to me it was such a big deal -- it still is a big deal -- but I sort of felt like, now I'm a real designer: I have a fragrance. I think that Robert Duffy, my partner, believed more that we could do cosmetics and that that was something that I would enjoy. I was a little bit reluctant. And of course he hooked it up with Sephora and we started doing it and I realized how much I love it. Once I become engaged, it's always the same process. The idea is you're with people who want to do something, and you start a dialogue and you start to define what is going to tell the story. It's like doing a show, it's like choosing fabrics, or colors, it's like deciding on a mood and the proportions and all that stuff. The process is kind of the same. You start out with nothing and then through a dialogue and through editing, and adding, and changing, you get into it, and then it becomes more interesting. So I've learned that even things that I didn't think I wanted to do can be a really enjoyable process if you treat them the same way as design.

Are you a control freak?

I wouldn't define myself that way. Maybe other people would. I think that it's difficult for me to arrive at a place where I think something is right, and when I get to that place, I feel like I'm very sure of what needs to be changed in order to really make it right... and to make me like it. And sometimes you have the time to do that, and sometimes you don't. It's hard for me to let go of things when I don't feel really good about them, and sometimes there's no choice. I guess after all these years I'm so used to doing things on a calendar or on a schedule that, although I'm constantly late and I work better under pressure, I always say I will do the best I can in the time I have. But it's still hard to let go when you sort of feel like, oh, if I had one more day...

I love how, after years of being known for starting your shows very late, you now start five minutes early no matter what. What brought on the change?

Well, I never set out to keep people waiting. I think it definitely reached an all-time high, and I feel like the lateness caused a lot of critics to look at the work differently. If they are tired, if it's the last show of the week, if it's late, if it's raining... you've got five strikes against you already. So I felt like, let's eliminate as many of the conditions as possible so that maybe the work can be just looked at as the work. That's when I got into this whole thing of, whatever we do in the time we have, [that's] the collection and the show. Then there is also this thing, I don't know if it's true or not, that Pierre Bergé and Saint Laurent were always on time, and Saint Laurent's always been my hero of all heroes. I love the idea of the precision. I love that fashion can be whatever it wants and change. Then again, it was funny because I got plenty of hell for starting on time too.

You've said Yves Saint Laurent is your idol. What is it about him that inspires you?

I love the world that Saint Laurent created and the people that surrounded him and worked with him. Since I was very young I have always been probably much more interested in European fashion than American fashion, for the most part, and Saint Laurent was one of those early names that I learned as a kid. Of course, since then I have learned a lot more names, and there are people I admire, but they all have that kind of thing in common. There is something very believable and wearable, but it doesn't change the fact that they were creative and they had a vision and a voice, or that they made a world that reflects their aesthetic, and that there are people around them that reflect that aesthetic. There is a kind of ambience, an aura. There's a mystique.

What do you think of what Hedi Slimane does for Saint Laurent?

I like him very much and I really like what he does. I think he's also really, really smart. In his own way, he's doing something for this generation. It feels very contemporary. It feels right.

What is your process like? Do you look at the fabrics and go from there?

Yeah. We have an office in Paris and what's been happening, what we've been doing for quite a few years, is Joseph and Emily and the team from New York come over to Paris, and we all sit in a room. The Paris team has been collecting things, various references or vintage fabrics, or new fabrics, whatever it is. Anything and everything. We have rooms filled with stuff and then we all sit down and start editing stuff out. Stuff that we like, stuff that we're not that interested in, stuff that we might eventually be interested in. Then we go through a process of looking at it, trying to define certain things, and it does go on for quite a while. The whole fabric process and the referencing, all that stuff, it's a couple of months.

You seem to sometimes have radical changes, like you'll have seasons and seasons where you're going on a groove and then all of a sudden it's Gloria von Thurn und Taxis from the eighties or something.

Yeah. It's funny. I feel that I am consistent, and I think there are certain things that I always go back to, but the spirit and the look can change so radically from season to season -- and I enjoy that. Again, that may be my attention span, but I like to do something different, and I like to say this is what it is this time and this is what it is that time. But in my mind if you reduce things to the lowest common denominator, there's just always some very basic kind of concepts. What the clothes are actually made up of. I always say, they're sweatshirts and they're T-shirts. They may be glorified T-shirts to the point that they look like evening dresses, but it's a zipper in the back and a crew neck and a short sleeve. So for me it's a T-shirt. It may be to the floor and have appliqués on the shoulder and it may be a cross between a Joan Crawford something... whatever the mixed references are, I do think there is some odd consistency. Although what I really want to do each time is say something else. Or say it about somebody else. But I'm not alone in all of this; we have constantly within our group had this conversation about consistency and change and all that. What do we hold on to, and what do we let go of, what are we interested in, and what are we not so interested in anymore? I think we all get more excited working on something we haven't just worked on.

On a less sophisticated note, you and I both love porn stars. What do you like about them?

I've never really thought about it. Sexy people are great. People who love sex are great. I guess I've met a few. I've dated one. Or two... I don't know. Porn is really exciting and sexy. It's funny -- I've never actively sought a porn star, but I must attract them in some way! When I was with [ex-boyfriend / porn star] Harry Louis, he wasn't the person in the movies. I had never seen his movies before I met him. I only saw his movies after I got to know him, and he definitely wasn't that person.

Have you ever been on Grindr or Tinder?

I went on Grindr a couple of times. Well actually, with Harry he was like, "Let's do a profile on Grindr." And I did, and I met a couple people.

Did you show your face?

I think so.

Really?!

Why not! I don't have any hang-ups about those kinds of things. I don't really care. Who's kidding who? I've talked about having hair transplants, I've talked about my drug problems, I've talked about my drinking problems, I've talked about sex. I just think it's so much better to sort of be honest about those things. I always find it very dubious and I don't really trust people who deny human instincts.

You had a phase where you loved to pose nude. Is that because you had just gotten into good shape?

Yeah. But it wasn't entirely my fault. I have a condition called ulcerative colitis and I was really suffering from it. I was not at all concerned with my appearance. I had long hair, I was wearing glasses, I don't think I changed my trousers twice within a week. Then I saw a nutritionist and she recommended a lifestyle change. She said, "I want you to go to the gym. You need to sweat every day, you need to nap, you need to laugh."

Sweat, nap, laugh, love it!

I was miserable for the first year -- but I started to see the results, and anything that makes me feel good I do more of! That's the nature of addiction, and I'm totally an addict in that respect. If I enjoy something, I want more of it. More sex, more food, more art, more sleep, more... whatever it is! So once I got into the habit of eating well and got over the initial pain and discomfort of going to the gym, I got really into it. Then I started to see a physical change. I stopped wearing my glasses, I cut my hair, I started to tan. Of course my ego sort of got into it. Mert and Marcus were doing this book that Vuitton sponsored, and it was nudes. So we got in the studio, and it was really right in the beginning when I went from 20 percent body fat to 8 percent body fat, and I was looking fit and tan and short hair, and they said, "Well, we want to shoot you nude," and I said OK. Then it sort of seemed like every time I was asked to do a picture for anyone they would be like, "Will you take your shirt off? Will you take your clothes off?" I finally felt like, for the first time in my life I'm comfortable. I'm just as comfortable naked as I am covering up.

It also gives you a chance to show off your tattoos.

I have "Shameless" tattooed on my chest, and I think that's what I aspire to be. I aspire to be able to say what I think and do what I want and not have that feeling of guilt or shame about it. Of course, nothing that I can think of that I've done do I need to feel ashamed of. It just feels like a freedom in some way.