Heidemarie Jiline ‘Jil’ Sander, born in Germany 1943, grew up with her mother. She went on to study textile design in Krefeld where she graduated as a textiles engineer in 1963. The young Sander worked as a fashion editor at the German women’s magazine Petra before opening her first boutique. During her early years as a designer, Sander favoured a sensitive use of delicate fabrics.
Sander enriched her collections with coordinating layers of pieces all in the same delicate colours and fabrics. Sander has been compared to Coco Chanel in her belief that function and comfort should run alongside beauty.
The first Jil Sander collection shown in Paris was a failure. At the end of the 1970s, the fashion world was enamoured with the opulent glitzy Dynasty-style designs and broad shoulders of the likes of Claude Montana. Sander’s clean sharp collections with their focus on fabric quality and workmanship were a polar opposite to the showy Paris fashions. It was not until the late 1980s when a sleeker look, popularised by Calvin Klein and Armani took over that Sander became an international success. Her trademark ‘empowering’ silhouette was adopted by women who were reaching previously unobtainable executive positions. Her signature look consisted of a svelte scrupulously cut trouser suit paired with a precise blouse and a fitted coat. All were made from luxurious yet understated fabrics in an unobtrusive palette of grey, beige, blue, black or white. Sander’s luxury whispered rather than screamed its credentials.
She gained a cult following in the late 1980s. In the age of consumerism her simple yet deluxe pieces were aimed very much at an affluent consumer.
Her separates could be easily layered and combined with each other and this became a trademark aesthetic. The phrase Onion Look or Zwiebel-Look, mimicking the many layers of an onion was coined to describe the Jil Sander inspired style of dressing.
Sander’s success continued to grow throughout the mid 1990s, with the launch of a new men’s collection. Her drive to concentrate more on creativity and design rather than forging a business empire drew much praise from the critics.
The Jil Sander label still exists today but has carried on without its founder’s involvement since 2004. After years of silence in early 2009 Sander announced the inception of her own fashion consultancy firm and collaboration with Uniqlo of Japan called +J.
Raf Simons is a Belgian born designer who graduated with a degree in Industrial and Furniture design in 1991 before having a radical change of profession and becoming a self trained menswear designer four years later.
His eponymously named menswear collections were heavily, albeit indirectly, influenced by youth culture, combining classically cut items with a more urban steetwear inspired casual aesthetic. He is frequently named as one of the most important and influential contemporary menswear designers. Since taking the helm at Jil Sander 10 years after launching his own label, Simons has been hailed as one of the few designers to create clothing suitable for high-powered career women. Although success is not purely limited to high achieving corporate women, Sander designed Jil Sander clothing has won legions of younger fans thanks to its bold colour combinations and simple clean lines. We welcome her innovative and architectural shoe designs – Here are a few of ReFined Culture’s Favs…
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Women’swear Fashion Shows