In fashion today there’s talk of a 'revolving door' of designers, a reference to the way creative directors are in and out of a brand after just one or two seasons at the helm. It’s hard to keep up with who’s been hired and who’s been fired - who’s going where and who’s staying put. Jil Sander is a brand that has suffered from this lack of leadership and consistency. Let’s spare a moment’s thought for their poor HR director. First we had Sander herself, then she left in 2001 after her brand was bought by Prada (she reportedly intended to stay but clashed with Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli). Milan Vukmirovic took over - who? I hear you cry - before Sander herself returned in 2003 to save the label from waning popularity. She left again a year later and so began the successful Raf Simons years we the fashion pack know and love. When he left for Dior in 2012, Sander retuned for a third time before skipping off into the sunset a year later. The in-house design team held things together for a short while before Rodolfo Paglialunga took over, coming to the house from Prada. His collections were inconsistent and failed to generate any morsel of buzz so he was sent packing earlier this year. One could argue he barely had the chance to make an impact but such is the way of fashion today. If you can’t turn a label around in one or two seasons, you’re out.
The task of reviving interest in the clean, cool crisp aesthetic Sander popularised amongst working men and women has now fallen to husband and wife duo Lucie and Luke Meier. She comes from Dior, he from OAMC and before that Supreme. On paper it’s a strong combination of a luxury understanding and a youth understanding - and if there’s anything Jil Sander needs it’s a strong proposition for why any up-coming luxury shopper should care about the brand. Women and men under 45 need to get it and think it’s cool. After this outing, I bet they will. Sure Jil Sander is never going to appear to all - it’s too precise, too calm, to considered, but it will seduce those who are tired of hype and surface and want something timelessly beautiful and understated. On her appointment, Lucie Meier talked of being introduced to fashion by her mother’s Jil Sander clothing, explaining how they transformed her when she put them on. It was that ethos of transformation that seemed to underpin today’s collection, which was filled with great single garments - often just one per look rather than the heap of styled layers we’ve become accustomed to this fashion week. A gorgeous billowing dress to float around the city. A longline shirt to wear to the office.
The show opened with a run of white shirts - some long and smock-like, others crisp. It nodded to when Sander made her first return to the house for S/S 04 and opted for clean, cool white - a clean slate, a break. But this collection deviated from Sander’s signatures. There were worldly, craft elements that felt new for the house, a buck from the German simplicity we have become accustomed to. That long fringing and those tactical, home-spun fabrics felt new and will give people a reason not just to go to COS when looking for great, roomy white and navy staples. On both menswear and womenswear the offering felt less chilly, more inviting and a touch off-beat. It was approachable and endearing. There was something especially attractive about that evening-wear - how refreshingly chic models looked in long time monochrome dresses, worn with simple graphic jewellery and leather flats.
We watched the show in the open air, below a gorgeous sunset and contained in a space designed by Zaha Hadid. Overhead, silhouetted in the evening light, was a crane. A house is being rebuilt.