i wasn't that impressed with the men's J+ collection.
the girl's collection looked good though.
bought my sister a few things.
does anyone know if they still have the women's blazers and trousers in small sizes (0, xs) at the ny store? i'm looking for a slimfit navy blue suit and not having much luck online. thanks in advance!
i went to uniqlo in NY this weekend. signs were posted saying the 2nd spring collection were going to be released on april 22nd.
there were many many jil sander items for 30-50% off.
my partner got a black parka perfect for spring marked down 30%.
Jil Sander Bathes in the Glow of Uniqlo
By SUZY MENKES
HAMBURG — Jil Sander leaps up from her desk, where a low shelf with a wood sculpture and framed drawings is the only decoration between parquet floor and the room’s white wedding-cake of a ceiling cornice.
“Look,” she says, tugging at her fitted white blouse, displaying its deep cuffs and pearly buttons. “39 euros! Real buttons — and a very nice cut.”
The blouse is part of what Ms. Sander’s calls “only a baby,” her collaboration since October with the Japanese company Uniqlo, which also made her small, body-curved navy blue jacket. Her pants came from her previous life at the Jil Sander label, where her style morphed over three decades from sleek severity to sweet serenity.
At 66, Ms. Sander is still exceptionally pretty, her hair in tender blond tendrils above eyes as Nordic blue as the local lake on this sunny day in Hamburg, her home territory.
When she was Heidemarie Jiline, she hated her mother taming the unruly curls into plaits. But she loved that her mother made pants, teaming them with home-made corduroy, button-down shirts, using the sewing machine that Ms. Sander took over when she set up her own label fashion company in 1968, at age 24.
“I was very early in liking trousers,” says the designer, who noted that her female school teacher in the postwar years disapproved of this revolutionary sartorial statement but “when I came in a dress she was always smiling.”
To say that Ms. Sander knows her own mind is to state the absolutely obvious. This sensitive yet strong woman, trained as a textile expert, created a fashion house, overcame the flop of a Paris show in 1975 and listed her company on the Frankfurt stock exchange at the end of the 1980s, when her purist vision was a counterculture to the prevailing glitz. The fact that she walked out twice on Prada — in 2000 and again in 2004 — after the Italian company had taken a 75 percent stake in Jil Sander, is part of 21st-century fashion legend.
But she does not want to talk about that — the word “Prada” only falling once, like a hard pellet, in a two-hour conversation. She attributes the fallout to the changing corporate fashion world. And her preferred subject is +J, as her new venture with Uniqlo is called.
She bathes in the glow of Uniqlo, which has brought her fashion redemption — and maybe sparked a revolution. For instead of replicating her earlier upscale output, she has become the first high-level designer to devote her entire skills and energy to affordable fashion.
With its clout and wide production network in China, Uniqlo, part of the ¥1.42 trillion, or about $15.34 billion, Fast Retailing group, listed on the Tokyo stock exchange, has managed with +J to make a fashion line that still has close attention to detail. Ms. Sander’s friends no longer ask, as they used to: “Why are your clothes so expensive?”
Joe McKenna, the stylist who worked with the photographer David Sims on the Jil Sander campaigns and again for +J, says that nothing has changed in Ms. Sander’s approach to her new role.
“It’s that same exactness, the same discipline — every thread and every button is as important as it was at Jil,” says Mr. McKenna, who has witnessed three or four fittings for one low-price Uniqlo garment.
Ms. Sander is exultant about the new autumn/winter collection that will go on sale in September: a shapely ginger coat with pockets curving over the hips; or a stylish cornflower blue parka teamed with a blue coat — both set to retail at under €120, or $150. The summer collection, currently in selected Uniqlo stores, tells the price story for both the men’s and women’s lines: a parka with detailed pockets and cords sells at €49.90; a three-pocket tailored jacket at €79.90.
“I give it all my passion and all my experience — it is a little adventure,” says Ms. Sander. “And maybe it is destiny that I am doing it for more people — I feel it is a little bit like a present.”
The designer says that she hates the word “cheap” and is putting all her focus on functionality and consistency, with the clean silhouettes and meticulous details that stamp her style.
“My mother always said that we were too poor to buy too cheap,” says the designer, referring back to her childhood days in a “broken” Hamburg, ruined by the wartime bombing. Looking outward, like so many in this port city, she escaped to Los Angeles, studying at UCLA, moved on to New York as a magazine fashion writer, but came back, at age 21, to join her younger and older siblings after their father died unexpectedly at 52.
Ms. Sander now has expensive tastes: modern works from artists including Silvia Bächli, Imi Knoebel, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol are displayed, as if in a gallery, in the white stucco building here that was once the Jil Sander showroom. Like her stores, the space was beautifully re-proportioned by the New York architect Michael Gabellini.
And then there is her home, the chalk-and-cheese mansion next door, with its rich red dining room, decorated with an ironic take on Renaissance still life paintings; ornate, gilded wall carvings, re-housed from a private Venetian theater; and grass-green velvet chairs where a window gives on to the formal garden.
This house was designed by the late Renzo Mongiardino, whose style could be described as the polar opposite of Mies van der Rohe’s concept of “Less is more.” Yet the Italian architect is Ms. Sander’s hero, his noble bearded face in a framed photograph in the library.
The antique books — and maybe the baroque effects — show the influence of Ms. Sander’s partner Dickie Mommsen, whose taste is literary and musical. Ms. Mommsen defines pleasure for her as attending a Daniel Barenboim concert when she visits her children in Berlin.
There is also Ms. Mommsen’s house in the country, north of Hamburg, where the couple share a passion for planning and tending a garden that sweeps down to the Baltic sea.
In those wilderness years, after the second walkout, when Ms. Sander traveled as never before, lingering in Africa, she bought a holiday house on a whim, another residence on a bracelet of homes that already stretched from Paris to Berlin.
But even if her personal life is more about accumulation than her minimal design aesthetic would suggest, the strong will of the designer was evident from the outset. She describes herself as “always on a mission even when I was quite young. I was always very interested, very visual.”
Jean-Jacques Picart, the French consultant who worked on the poorly-received first Jil Sander Paris collection shown at the Plaza Athénée hotel, remembers that collection as: “fluidity and simplicity, cashmere jersey, silk and second-skin fabrics, a focus on knitwear and big coats — and young model Inès de la Fressange in a boyish pants suit.”
To Ms. Sander, the show was a devastating failure, assuaged only when she opened her trademark minimalist store on Avenue Montaigne nearly two decades later in 1993.
“She was much too early — it was something so different in the era of Mugler, Montana and Ungaro,” says Mr. Picart, referring to the fashion giants in the late 1970s.
Ms. Sander herself rejects the word “minimalist,” so closely associated with her plain clothes in precious fabrics.
“I prefer to call it ‘pure’ — minimal can be very empty,” says the designer, who gave the name “Pure” to her fragrance back in 1980.
Her collections have always had an emotional resonance, revealed backstage, when her hands shook as she stroked the fabrics and explained their significance.
It might be supposed that Uniqlo and Tadashi Yanai, the chairman and chief executive of Fast Retailing, threw the bereft designer a lifeline. She admits that “it was very difficult for me — the company was my home” and that “it’s like a boarding school — you are never alone.” After the bust-up with Prada, she used yoga and exercise to heal herself. She never mentions the word “depression” and her friends remain silent about this period, one saying “she has been hurt enough.”
“I learned early how deep and difficult fashion can be,” says Ms. Sander, talking about German character in contrast to American “can do” or extrovert Latin attitudes, saying: “we go deep and find problems.”
The designer now seems happy, energized and even a little amazed at how well the Uniqlo collection has worked out as a “good basic product” with “the right quality and the right proportions.” She exhibits an innocent wonder that the Chinese factories (which she has not yet visited) can interpret her vision for so little.
“In the end, this choice came almost accidentally and I slowly started,” says Ms. Sander, explaining that “somebody called me from Uniqlo” and then it was a “step by step process” in a country that was closed for a long time and where the “hierarchy is very difficult” and where even emancipated women “have to be girls, sweet and pretty.”
Currently there are trips to Tokyo almost every month, but Ms. Sander hopes that she can develop the former Jil Sander showroom and her in-town office as a Hamburg hub, in order to cut down on travel.
The rest of her time is taken up with the country garden, with its “rooms” laid out, in the manner of England’s Sissinghurst, by the British landscape gardener Penelope Hobhouse. Even here, the designer shows her strong-will, according to Ms. Mommsen, demanding implacably that a tree must be moved to fit with her vision.
Then there are her partner’s grandchildren — the girls as feminine as Ms. Sander never was, with one of them, aged nine, hankering after red high heels .
“Can you imagine — me!,” says the designer, whose footwear of choice is a pair of black leather buckled boots.
“But I believe a woman is always strong, even when she plays girly,” says Ms. Sander.
Then she frowns and asks, swooping her arms up and down: “Why is it always going in cycles — with all this glitz, those Italian television presenters and ‘Sex and the City’? You can be sexy, cool and intelligent.”
Yet there is no rage in her words, as there might have been in the feminist era that she helped to define in fashion terms. Ms. Sander is at ease, although she says that she must feel good in what she wears or otherwise “I feel weak somehow.”
Her mother died last year — a peaceful passing with all the family gathered round.
“When your mother goes with you up to 93, you think it is forever — I feel blessed,” says Ms. Sander. “I remember when I became 40, I understood my mother much better. And the last section, when I stopped working, I could kiss her all the time. It was fortunate to become so close.”
Her mother always dressed in Jil Sander. (“I think she was quite proud,” says her daughter.)
In April, Ms. Sander signed up with Uniqlo for another three years — which will bring her to age 70.
“I don’t feel my age — I am so active , very playful and also very childish,” she says. “The most important thing is to work on the spirit, to feel like a feather — lighter and lighter.”
excerpt from the Q+A (nytimes.com)
You have worked intensely with Italy and Japan. Is one of those two countries closest to your own sensibility? Or is it about the individual people you work with?
In mentality, I feel closer to Italy. Japan was a culture shock at first. I had to get used to the complex hierarchical structures, to the implicit rules of communication, and also to the social role women play. But in a professional sense, I quickly felt at home. Japan has a lot of respect for quality and for innovation. The Uniqlo machinery adapted quickly to changes. There is enough craftsmanship around to develop, realize, and implement new ideas. In Italy, everything is more intimate, the Italian family business is perfect for specialized luxury. Uniqlo lets me operate on a larger scale, which is a burden but also a great opportunity. In the long run, I hope to combine the best of both fashion cultures. We have already started cooperation with Italian textile producers.
To many people, the real difference between your long history of work and the collections with Uniqlo is about price. Did you decide mentally that you wanted to bring your aesthetic and attitude to make affordable clothes? And how easy is it to create a high level of design at a low price?
Things don’t always happen through pure will and conscious choice. It was rather about waiting for the one thing that felt just right. I screened many options, mostly from the couture context. But I didn’t want to do the same thing again. Uniqlo was an opportunity to test my principles in a new field. And it felt like a worthwhile challenge to globalize quality at affordable prices. I want to propose smart uniforms for all those who don’t have the time, the means, or the patience to invent themselves anew every day. I see +J as an evolving lingua franca which may help to overcome cultural barriers and to bring today’s global population closer together.
If luxury can be in simplicity, how do you work at Uniqlo without having any of the tools of fashion luxury? Fabric research has always been your credo. I remember coming backstage at your European collections to touch the material and understand its hidden values. Can that be the same when you are working with low-cost fabrics?
Of course, there are luxurious textiles which stay out of reach for a high street company. But I am quite impressed as to how much can be done. I sometimes call it working on wonders. We do a lot of fabric research and development. And since Uniqlo is a Japanese company with a traditional focus on outdoor wear, it has the necessary technique and knowledgeable specialists for new solutions. Placing large orders helps to get quality for an interesting price.
What did you do in the period when you “stopped” designing in 2004, when you left the business that carried your name? Aren’t I right in thinking that there were five years between then and signing with Uniqlo? Were you always thinking about fashion and sketching? Did you do other kinds of art or work with your hands? Were you always designing inside your head?
It was not that long, really. I stopped designing in 2005 and started at Uniqlo at the end of 2008. In a way, I probably went on “designing in my head,” for it felt very natural, when I began the +J collection. But I had never really lost touch with fashion. I continued to see the world with a designer’s eyes. As to the free time, I used it to travel to countries I had not visited or not been able to explore with leisure. And I grounded myself in the garden. In the meantime, I learned to negotiate. Since I always meant to return to fashion, I scrutinized many options.
Why did you start to design again for Uniqlo? Was it a new challenge? A mission to bring your vision to a much wider audience? And is it true that you have recently signed on for another three years?
As I said, Uniqlo seems the most adequate venture in the given moment. The couture industry stands at a crossroads, the defilee machinery feels a little outdated, and creativity seems to be a bit stuck in repetitions or overdone with equipment. There is a lot of recycling going on, experimenting without direction. I wanted to have a fresh start with a clear objective. Modern basics appeared to be the most confused discipline, a field that was in need for a breakthrough. My fashion sensibility has always been close to clear lines and intelligent cuts. It seemed a logical challenge to try my hand at a democratic line and see whether it could be realized in the highest possible quality.
What do you think in your heart about fast fashion? I always think of you as making things with real value that are designed to last. Yet now almost the entire global fashion industry is based on the idea of hit and run, meaning having a hit garment or handbag that is a one-season wonder. Can you change that trend by making inexpensive clothes that are still destined to have a long fashion life?
I don’t think we will come back to the Mao suit. Even classical cuts need to be redefined again and again to look fresh and attractive. I don’t want to do away with trends. I am more interested in being consistent within my collection. To turn it into a line with a perceptible concept and a logical evolution. I hope that +J designs will make sense a little longer than the “hit garment” of the season. But I also count on +J pieces to become a balancing element in the mix-and-match culture of today.
You never made retro clothing with references to the past. Yet you have a wide culture and education. Do you think that in your thoughts and vision, you are aligned with the Bauhaus movement, to the Russian constructivists or to artists of the past?
It was mainly the Bauhaus architecture that had a huge influence, not just on me. But in a more general sense, I feel sympathetic to the art of all times. I find the same principles in perfection of all ages, the same sense of proportion and symmetry, the same dedication to craftwork.
What is your passion today apart from work? Do you like to travel? To be involved with artists? Theater? Music? Movies? Books?
I have a longstanding love for art. I visit art fairs and galleries and occasionally collect what I find impressive in contemporary global art. Books are also elementary, when time permits. Hopefully, I will find time to explore traditional Japanese gardens more thoroughly.
Have you engaged with technology? And if so, are you interested in following particular Web sites or blogs to be part of and aware of today’s popular culture?
Frankly, I don’t have time right now to explore the net systematically. But I am curious and look up sites that are recommended to me. Currently, we are working on our own Internet presence. I am thinking of a site that will not only help to make +J more transparent, but also serve as a cultural platform and a kind of think tank for ourselves.
My last question: can women ever dress in attitude like men? Or is there something in the female gene that draws women to fanciful dressing, whether it is elaborate hair or crazy shoes? I am asking in fashion language the big question about human identity. Is it about nature or nurture? Or to put it another way: Can you educate the sexes to adopt the same attitudes?
Since childhood, I have been interested in men’s clothes. Fabrics, cuts, colors — everything there seemed less flimsy and whimsical. This may have given my work an androgynous edge. But I like femininity, not of the devout, but of the self-assured, cool and sophisticated kind. I have the impression that lines get more and more blurred between the sexes. You see much more fashion consciousness and a desire for individual outfits in the male population, while many women prefer uniformity with their sex, be it the girly style, the denim plus Chanel jacket outfit, gothic, or what have you. But there are great examples of women dressing with attitude. A personal, grownup style often seems to come with professional success and an autonomous lifestyle. There are times in life when a non-sexualized attitude is important. I hope to provide clothes which underline the attractiveness of character, intelligence and personal charisma.
^I'd love to know that too, because the campaigns so far have been stunning.
I can't get enough of the navy coat on Raquel with the high collar, it's sheer perfection. Can't wait to for the new collection to hit the stores on October 14th.
|jil, sander, uniqlo|