Possibly the only thing more daunting than launching a new label is inheriting one with such a precise aesthetic that even the slightest departure sends ripples through the industry. So it’s been with slight caution and great care that Lucie and Luke Meier have assumed the helm of the venerable Jil Sander fashion house.
Known for its exacting proportions and monochrome colors, Jil Sander has represented the standard of modern minimalism since its inception in 1968, an approach that resonates with its current husband-and-wife design team, now in their third season. “We’ve both loved the brand for many years—it was a big part of my upbringing,” Lucie says.
“The brand’s values are in line with our personal perspective—that’s really important,” Luke adds. “We’re not trying to imagine how the brand sees things, because it’s a vision we share as well.” It helps that the Jil Sander ethos is less about house codes and more about an overall philosophy, allowing leeway to explore the details of the creative process. “Construction is very important for us, and so is fabric development,” he says. “But although we can get quite micro on certain aspects, it’s ultimately about conveying an emotional experience through clothes.”
Emotion is not a word frequently associated with the label’s spare lines and stark palette. To the Meiers, however, therein lies the potential: “Take, for example, a white shirt,” Luke says. “There is a way to cut it so that it feels enveloping and protective rather than a stiff, soulless thing. Also, we use a lot of natural fibers to add texture and bring a certain humanity to the collection.”
The shirt, in its varying permutations, plays an important role for Spring 2019. Stripped of embellishment and elevated with plays on proportion and volume, each style challenges the conformity often ascribed to the ubiquitous wardrobe essential. This season’s rendition is inspired by the daily dressing of dancers and boxers. “You have these athletes that wear the same uniform every day to practice,” Luke says. “After putting in all the work, in the moment of performance they become free.”
The blend of fine tailoring and experimental silhouettes in the collection reflects what each designer brings to the table. Lucie, born in Switzerland to an Austrian mother and German father, was co–Creative Director at Dior for five seasons, following stints at Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. Canadian-born Luke studied business before pivoting to the world of fashion. He spent eight years as head designer for the ultimate counterculture label, Supreme, then launched edgy menswear label OAMC. The new Jil Sander marries Lucie’s craftsmanship expertise with Luke’s more organic approach.
Despite their differences in training, the Meiers work in tandem on each collection. “We design everything together. Our moods complement each other,” says Lucie. “We are always having conversations about what’s best.” There’s no leaving work at the office, either: Dinner is often a brainstorming session—albeit with a firm focus on creativity, not number-crunching. Weekend trips to art exhibits, music performances, and films serve as intellectual and artistic stimulation.
In the Meiers’ capable hands, expect to see a gradual development of the Jil Sander look—by definition, a modern aesthetic must continue to evolve. “We have a clear understanding of the past, but we cannot go backward in our designs,” says Luke. “Jil Sander will always be forward-looking.”