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Jil Sander Opens Up About Returning to Her Namesake Label

“Sophistication, subtle elegance and a progressive spirit, to me, are the ingredients of the future.”
– Jil Sander

Jil Sander’s spring collection is the first to be designed by Jil Sander herself since 2005, yet its depth and complexity suggests that her hiatus, spent partly in Japan, has only sharpened her eye. The silhouettes are  perfectly precise, discreetly exposing the German designer’s technical virtuosity. And in addition to the tailored trousers and jackets that made her famous, the collection features sexy, draped dresses and shorter hemlines. Below, we talk with Sander about what it means to return to the house she founded, and where she hopes fashion will go next.

You’re often called a minimalist designer; does this ring true for you?

Jil Sander: To speak of minimalism makes most sense in art and music, where you can be very conceptual and extreme. Fashion design is less principled and maybe more sensitive to the vibrations of the moment. As a designer, you are in constant search of a new beauty, you don’t reduce for the sake of reduction. I have been moved by minimalist art, but I never tried to copy it. My design is very intuitive. I am looking for new possibilities, new cuts and proportions, and there is a richness and sensuality in that.

How has your stint in Tokyo affected you as a designer?

Jil Sander: It was a very refreshing period, almost a wager game: how far can you go and how much can you achieve under the conditions of a highstreet brand? We had to be very inventive and extremely precise. I learned a lot from my work with textile engineers, but I was also impressed by the sheer modernity of Tokyo and its inhabitants. I feel that I am more informed and open now to the global world of our immediate future.

How does it feel to be designing under your name again?

Jil Sander: I felt just as responsible when I designed the +J-collection in Japan, which was labeled by my initial. Nevertheless, it is a peculiar thing to return to the brand you once founded. From the first day, I concentrated on affirming my handwriting, and on giving the uttermost clarity to the identity of the brand. It is more important than ever to have a strong identity, and I find it very satisfying to create under my own name.

Tell us about your spring collection for men—what are the hallmarks? What’s feeling new and fresh for spring?

Jil Sander: I concentrated on fresh proportions and the tension between volume and fittedness, using fabrics with a standing quality. Dignity and playfulness, roundness and abstraction were other energetic pairings. State of the art, light fabric mixes worked towards a new athletic elegance.

And for women?

Jil Sander: Some of the objects were quite similar, like the everlasting research of new proportions and the emphasis on sculptured shapes. I looked for an attractive balance of lightness and substance, tailored details and an overall impression of enlightened simplicity. The collection is about graceful movement and a spirit of ease and quiet confidence. I wanted to shape the body without exposing it.

Were there any specific inspirations for these collections that you’d like to share?

Jil Sander: The Russian Suprematist artists were an inspiration for the men’s collection. Here and in the women’s collection new fabrics led the way.

How do you hope people feel when they wear your designs?

Jil Sander: I hope that they would feel comfortable, sure of themselves, well taken care of, smart and ready to face the world.

If you could collaborate with anyone—living, dead or fictional—on a collection, who would it be?

Jil Sander: Lately, the disappearance of Oscar Niemeyer brought his oeuvre very much to my mind. I am highly impressed by his daring, the fearless dimensions in which he conceived his designs. It would have been quite interesting to collaborate with him.

What do you love about designing fashion?

Jil Sander: I love the involvement. When I am working on a new collection, I feel in communication with everything that concerned and impressed me. Design to me is a language which skirts all subjects.

What direction would you like to see fashion go in the future?

Jil Sander: I made no secret of my preference for understated modernity of high quality. The vocabulary of so called minimalist fashion is well established. At this point, we need new shapes and proportions. New ways of being unconventional without aritificial exaggerations. Fashion right now is paving the way into the new century and into a new global, cosmopolitan humanity. Sophistication, subtle elegance and a progressive spirit, to me, are the ingredients of the future.

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