Jil Sander is one of the industry's more enigmatic and private figures – and one of few designers to have made two debuts under her own label: Once when she founded the brand in 1973, and the second during a dramatic return, after a three-year-hiatus, when her label was owned by the Italian luxury brand, Prada.
Sander developed a global cult following among moneyed minimalists in the late 1980s and 1990s. Her design aesthetic was based on classic, luxury of cloth, determined absence of decoration, clean lines and a subdued colour palette, generally in beiges, creams, navy and black, which rarely strayed within a mile of a print. But still, her intellectual curiosity led to experimentation with highly technical fabrications from Japan and she would often surprise with a splash of bold colour.
Sanders knowledge of fabric will surely please the Uniqlo customers as quality fabrics are not always de rigeur at high street prices, despite the possibilities open to sourcing great fabrics in consideration of the volumes sold by retailers.
Jil Sander became a subsidiary of Prada in 1999, but just six months later, Sander left, in January, 2000, after reported confrontations with the Prada boss, Patrizio Bertelli, husband of Miuccia Prada.
Sander’s perfectionist approach and insistence on total control of every aspect from choice of fabric to choice of models was bound to create tensions with the volatile Bertelli, who, it was said, wanted a scaling-back on costs and a more mainstream approach.
However, after her non-compete clause had expired, Sander made a surprise return to the brand which bore her name, to the delight of international press and buyers, only to leave a second time, a year later – this time for good.
Since 2005, the Jil Sander collection has been designed by the Belgian designer Raf Simons, whose most recent collection – for autumn/winter 09/10 – was one of the standout shows of Milan Fashion Week.
In the meantime, the Jil Sander brand was sold, in September 2008, to Onward Holdings, one of the largest Japanese multi-brand fashion conglomerates, for about US $244 million, according to Japan Marketing News. Onward Holdings, based in Tokyo, made the acquisition through its European unit, GIBO, according to the International Herald Tribune.
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Image: Jil Sander