At Jil Sander, one can find assurances that the future of fashion is not incurable madness
Of late, we have been reading a number of rants against minimalism, how adherents are boring (old) farts, how they live for safe than sorry, how they mistakenly think simplicity is a virtue. Although minimalism, like most of fashion—from couture to street, has evolved, many haters think minimalist style is “white-on-white-on-white” or “ten variations of taupe”. To them naysayers, so flavourless is minimalism as fashion that a Marie biscuit is tastier and looks better.
But biscuit the colour isn’t as dull as any other that has chromatic commonality with food. Even black has some bro in the comestible. It is possible that these antis can only equate minimalism with plain, possibly the un-designed. Or, they have never seen the work of Luke and Lucie Meier for Jil Sander. The husband-and-wife team has been so deft at what they do for Jil Sander that they have created a clear, distinctive voice for the label that is not a radical departure from the founder’s aesthetic, yet not without their own controlled spin. They have showed that minimalism need not be impoverished of the visually rousing. As guest designers at Pitti Uomo this season, they proved that stripped down is not stripped away.
It is always fascinating to see how the Meiers can put out what appears to be little with such maximum effect. And without appearing to try too hard, which, increasingly seems to be the adopted look of many of today’s designers, old and new, attempting to make a mark in a difficult-to-dent world, or to remain relevant during a time when relevance morphs into irrelevance as quickly as disruption becoming undisruptive. The Meiers’ Jil Sander does not negate what was established before, nor does it shade the designers’ own vision of what the brand could be, without chipping away at its foundation.
Since 2017, when they joined Jil Sander (now owned by the Japanese multi-label giant Onward Holdings. It was once part of the Prada group), the Meiers have given the brand—both men’s and women’s wear—a contemporary update without stepping into nothing-to-see territory. For men, they have introduced shapes and volumes and decorative details while still keeping to a discipline that qualifies the output as minimalist. Some readers tell us that the two remind them of Lemaire’s also-married-to-each-other Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran, but the two couples could’t be more different. Both may eschew the far out and both may make modest marvelous, but their output are as only as similar as two sides of a coin.
While many designers are going ‘gorpcore’ (natural next step after street?), the Meiers choose not to broach it. Sure, there are outdoorsy elements in the collection, but they walk in the shadow of the monastic and nomadic. For autumn/winter 2020, we are drawn to how ageless—even genderless—everything looks. If not for the fabrics, which include tweeds, suedes and Japanese wools, it could be seasonless too. It isn’t too dressed up or too dressed down either: the relaxed suits, the supple coats, the gentle capes, and the sleeveless tunics (with the epaulettes of a shirt that can be fastened to the shoulder of one of them). There are the muted water colour prints of what appears to be desert flora, even a bison. To underscore the hard and soft duality of the collection, details go from fringing to metal studs and silver pendants.
Under the Meiers, the brand’s bag offerings are especially strong. Apart from messenger and totes, there are the triangular (if you look at them sideways) postman bags with hand-knotted and crochet straps, hung trinket-like, that subtly under score the craft ethos for Jil Sander. The footwear, too, gets their own highlight in the form of the hiking shoe/sneaker hybrid, which, given the trail boots’ trajectory, is set to be the one to cop. If this alludes to the collection’s steady footing, it is much welcome.
Photos: Jil Sander