Simply Sophisticated Featured

A conversation with Jil Sander, the unrivalled doyenne of fashion



Jil Sander, with her unique vision, created a whole new approach to ready-to-wear that was instantly embraced by legions of aficionados. Her path has not always been easy, but to the relief of many she’s back where she belongs!

Your return to the runway last year was THE event of the fashion world… how did it feel once the clamour died down?

Thank you for your kind words. To tell the truth, I had very little time to bathe in positive reactions, I have never been so busy before, designing collections and reorganizing the whole structure in the meantime. But without this impression of being appreciated, the energy might not have been there. The reality after the clamour is concentrated work on all fronts. Nevertheless, it makes me very happy to be back in the atelier.

Your absence from your own name and brand must have been a challenge. What did you learn from the experience?

I believe in fate, there is a reason to everything. I had a chance to travel, to acquaint myself anew with the world, and to try my hand at fast fashion in Japan, a country I always cherished. I stepped out of a high voltage machine and made a free decision to join it again. Now, I really know that this course of life belongs to me.

What exactly is 'fashion' in your opinion?

As you may guess, I don’t put the accent on fashion. Clothes should not just be a pastime, in my eyes. They are an essential way of presenting ourselves to the world. Dressing is quite a serious thing, if you want to be respected. On the other hand, I believe in change, in zeitgeist, in being in synch with the moment. For me, fashion is an expression of our understanding of the present age and its possibilities. It should free us from the past, but also set us free to act in a responsible way. We should be energized and supported by fashion.

Your aesthetic in women’s fashion has been associated with feminist philosophy…any thoughts on that?

I think that women are still at the crossroads. They must decide whether they want to advance by highlighting their bodies or their intelligence. I always tried to underline their personality and individuality, not to edit them out.

Could you talk to us a little bit about the “white shirt” and your relationship to it?

White, to me, is an almost mythical colour, very pure and disarming. The shirt is an essential for both sexes, an iconic piece of clothing which changes the whole appearance. To combine both, makes a strong impression, especially because it speaks softly. I also like the white shirt, because it is a constructive item, it lends itself to adaptation, it can be endlessly varied and made responsive to the spirit of the moment.

You are known for using extraordinary fabrics with a rich and luxurious hand…are they fundamental? Why?

I am passionate about fabrics. My work is very tactile; I design with my hands, with my touch and what I learn from it. New textile mixes and solutions lead the way to new cuts, new ways in which a design can fall and unfold in movement. There is the sculptural side to fabrics, but I also value the high-tech research which goes into their conception.

You will be opening boutiques in Beijing and Shanghai this year. Of course China is a very important market, how do you think Chinese women and men will respond to your unique aesthetic?

The Chinese are very curious and informed about European fashion that makes me optimistic. For China, the 20th century was defined by uniforms. They have an innate sense of understatement. I hope that Chinese consumers will value Jil Sander as a synthesis of luxury and quiet sophistication.