Jil Sander

Tonie Ong

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Jil Sander Collection

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Articles on Jil Sander

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One of fashion’s most favorite trends is minimalism. It’s an aesthetic that appreciates simplicity and cleanliness, which is almost an anomaly for an industry that has long celebrated extravagance and exuberance. It’s a style that all designers have touched upon at some point in their careers, mainly because it gives their clients the freedom to style and express themselves as they wish, which is the very point of fashion. Although at first glance, the style may seem easy, it’s actually quite difficult to design. While many designers today pride themselves on being a minimalist designer, one woman is credited by many to be among its pioneers: Jil Sander.

Impact on Fashion

Jil Sander is known for minimalism, to the point that she is often mistaken as its creator. Her refined take on simple yet highly-stylized clothing is celebrated in the industry. More than the mere absence of print and embellishments, Jil Sander’s minimalism is often laden with intellectual context, and at times, very subversive. It’s not that it’s just simple, but there is an elegance behind it that no other designer can equal. She redefined a look and turned into something more than it is, paving the way for other designers to do the same. She also gave customers a more relaxed and refined aesthetic without having to confuse them with too much extravagance.

Early Years and the Brand’s Beginnings

Born on the 27th of November, 1843, she grew up in Germany but later moved to the United States to study fashion design at the University of California in Los Angeles city. Upon graduation, she worked in the industry’s editorial sector, becoming an editor for the German fashion magazine, Petra. In 1967, she opened her first boutique, selling her own designs alongside those of Thierry Mugler and Sonia Rykiel. A year later, in 1968, she established the Jil Sander brand. In 1975, she presented her first fashion show, which was not met with critical success. It took a few years later, in the 1980’s, that her work was finally appreciated and saw critical and commercial success.

Around the early 80’s, the designer expanded her brand to include accessories, cosmetics, and fragrance lines. She eventually released scents like Pure Woman and Pure Man, which became so popular that they were re-released as “Scent 79”. In 1989, the brand was introduced on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, expanding its awareness to international markets. Four years later, in 1993, she opened her first international boutique in Paris on the famous Avenue Montaigne. In 1997, she debuted the label’s menswear collection on Milan Men’s Fashion Week which, unlike her first womenswear, was immediately met with acclaim.

Raf Simons at Jil Sander

The label was acquired by the Prada group in 1999, getting over 75% of company’s shares. Although she was no longer its sole owner, Jil stayed with her brand as creative director. She resigned soon after disagreements with Patrizio Bertelli, Prada’s chief executive. From that point started her notoriety and coming and going in her own brand, such as her returning in 2003 but leaving again in 2004. Her label was then taken over by a series of creative director, the most prominent of which was Belgian designer Raf Simons, who took over in 2005.

It was on this label that Simons, that time renowned yet not-so-prominent menswear designer, fully-realized his potential with womenswear. He offered clothes with direction and narrative, key additions to the brand’s minimalist aesthetic. His tenure is regarded by many in the industry as one of the greatest of a creative director. He exited the brand in 2012.

Venturing Into Modern Minimalism

Like with any other brand, Jil Sander has her fair share of staples—pieces that are beloved by old and new customers. During the early part of the label, she focused on cropped-pant suits, white shirts, and monochrome dresses. Although they were initially shunned by the fashion crowd, they eventually grew to love her designs. Those early pieces have since become classic Jil Sander items. As her company expanded and was getting more acclaim, she focused on perfecting her tailoring. She eventually trotted out strong silhouettes, stark colors, and clean lines—all of which have become definitive of the minimalist look.

When Raf Simons took the helm, he redefined the Jil Sander customer – one that embraces bright pops of color and couture silhouettes. While there were still technically minimalist, his designs were far from the neutral and simple aesthetic established by the founder. They were quirkier and had a lot more personality, giving minimalism a totally different spin. His tenure at the house was defined by what is referred to as his “Couture Trilogy”, a series of three consecutive collections in womenswear, from Spring 2011 to Spring 2012, that reflected traditional styles and silhouettes of haute couture. Clothes from these collections became somewhat emblematic of the new, modern Jil Sander look.

It’s so easy for a designer to claim minimalism as his/her own aesthetic, but it’s another thing altogether to really understand the style, Jil Sander not only understood the style, she pioneered it at a time when exuberance was the hottest thing in the industry. Her brand still stands today as a reminder that simplicity can never go out of style.

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