Tag Archives: Jil Sander

Jil Sander, 1986

The Couture Trilogy

For three seasons Raf Simons at Jil Sander has indulged his own couture fantasies that would normally seem worlds away from the universe he has cultivated at his eponymous label and at Jil Sander. A strange exploration of bourgeois, old world and misogynistic codes of mid-century womanhood, removed only slightly from their typically dreadful context (one can only shudder at the word “ladylike” as a serious adjective to describe contemporary fashion), the very antithesis to the street inspired men’s wear that Simons had begun with and the triumphant feminism that Sander had so well defined. It was Simons’ “couture trilogy” which at its best managed to simultaneously shift our ideas on minimalism and maximalism, rarefied tradition and bright bold futurism, archaic sexism and modern feminism, tearing apart our notions of these binaries, switching them and swapping them, replaced with a not totally new (it can be argued that Isaac Mizrahi did much of the leg work years before) but still a very updated key in which to decode these ideas for right now.

That it would all happen under the banner of Jil Sander is both curious and telling; a candid sign of Simons’ tendency for transgression and his ability to summon a world of his own in the most unexpected circumstances. Simons’ “couture” efforts have been uncanny, as beautiful as they are startling, proving Simons’ prowess as a women’s wear designer and his ablity to put forth a new attitude towards histories and legacies, grandeur and glamour and modern feminity–to create a vital and relevant context for it all to exist together today. He is adept, he is masterful. And apparently, according to this morning’s WWD, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, in their consideration of Christian Dior’s successor, think so, too.

Jil Sander, 1985

These aren’t the looks we’ve come to associate with Jil Sander, with their layers and touches of “oriental” opulence. But then maybe the idea that Sander has always been a minimalist stronghold, rather than a modern one, is really only a recent invention. Modernity can be interpreted in different ways and in the 1990’s it meant minimalism. But in a different world, or in another era (past or future), it could mean something else.

Alternatives, 2012

The Men’s Dress Reform Party, London, 1937

One of the many factions advocating radical change in conventional Western dress in the early 20th century, the Men’s Dress Reform Party pursued a softer, easier look based on comfort and aesthetic principle. Soft collars, shorts,  breeches, and even sandals were prized for their sartorial freedom and their parallel political reflections.

Raincoat designed by Issey Miyake, modeled by Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura

Miyake found no discrepancy between East and West, believing that the two could combine into an amalgam of a modern world. In his design of a raincoat the binary of traditional Japanese clothes making and modern technology only compliment each other.

Yohji Yamamoto, circa 1984

Yamamoto utilized his native dress  with no less fervor bringing essentially Japanese shapes and forms to fashionable attention, facing head-on world dominating Western dress. While it would not reshape the modern wardrobe it would help put it into perspective and offer at least one divergent direction forward.

Giorgio Armani, 1990

Armani’s relaxed attitude, burgeoning into ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took its inspiration from dress of the Middle East and Asia. A softer silhouette, still in cahoots with the oversized masculinity of its time, was sensual and seductive.

Raf Simons, 2005

Simons’s fall 2005 collection was an anathema to men’s fashion of its time. Sending out street casted boys in oversized silhouettes, owing as much to 1980’s Yamamoto as it does  the decades’ science fiction narratives ala Blade Runner and Brazil, the show struck a note that would vibrate much longer than a single season.

The spring 2012 men’s wear collections from Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, Issey Miyake, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, and Lanvin.

The Spring 2012 men’s wear collections in Milan and Paris are not so easily defined through rock‘n’roll, iconic heritage, or some kind of vague sartorialism – the usual language that gets bandied around from season to season to describe men’s fashion. The collections this time had a lot more to them. Trying to clearly express what it is, what these clothes really are, is much trickier, muddled in their ambiguity and contradictions; at once soft and strict, synthetic and natural, ancient and modern. There are no easy references to rely on but there is a means forward.

Jil Sander, 1991

 A romantic and historicist’s touch on Jil Sander’s burgeoning minimalist look.

Considering Milanese fashion of the time: the pastiche of trompe l’oeil prints from Versace, rococo embellishments from Ferre, and hyper ethnic stripes from Missoni, Jil Sander was indeed a minimalist. But the designer’s ambitions were never a campaign for anti-fashion, instead it was a personal move, a step towards a modernity of her own making. Sander reveled in the novelty of fashion, reinterpreting its shifts and swings for herself and no one else. She did not abhor fashion, rather, she only wanted to grant it some ease.

Simultaneity, 2011

Untitled by Sonia Delaunay, 1972

Two projects for dresses by Sonia Delaunay, 1924-1925

Delaunay in her own designs, 1923

The current Cooper Hewitt exhibit, Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, could not have a come at a better time; the artist’s simultaneous dress has found itself strown far and across the Fall/Winter 2011 collections, showcasing her vivid use of color blocking, cubist rendering of the body, and focused application of craft. The Delaunay parallel speaks to a renewed interest in ornamentation, prodding designers toward a new language for decoration and embellishment. Delaunay had swam against the French fashion current developing her artistic dress, determined to practice a dress reform of her own. Purposely avoiding the convention and fashion cycle that dictated popular dress, Delaunay assembled her own vocabulary and visual codes within clothes. While designers have just rediscovered the benefits of reduction and restraint, the artistic dress and dress reform of the early 20th century and their expressions of progress in defiance of tradition seem all too appropriate as fashion now begins to reconstitute a sense of richness and craft.  

Fall/Winter 2011 collections by Prada, Proenza Schouler, Celine, Balenciaga, Chloe, Christopher Kane, Hermes, Rodarte, Dries Van Noten, Proenza Schouler, Jil Sander, and Louise Gray

While Delaunay is perhaps the most visible and recognized artist-turned-dress reformer, a look into the genre with a broader view reveals a much larger discussion and body of work…

 Projects for dresses by Italian Futurist Tullio Cralli, 1932-1933

Project for Suprematist clothing by Kazimir Malevich, 1923 

Gustave Klimt and Emilie Flöge wearing garments of Klimt’s design, 1905-1910

Exuberance, 2011

Oliviero Toscani’s talents for Esprit simulated a Utopia within the brand’s own visual culture, suggesting a better world, a fresher one at least, for their customers to consider.

Spring 11 looks by Jil Sander, Missoni, Prada, and Matthew Ames

The Spring 2011 collections have revealed a similar outlook, not surprising that it was prevalent mostly in the Milan collections. Clear color, bold graphics and prints, an abstracted silhouette, and a heavy dose of humor are new ways to move on from the incorrectly labeled “minimalism” that has defined fashion in the past season. Of course the look is clean and pared down, but it finds enrichment with an entirely different vocabulary, an entirely modern one, actually.

Jean Louis Scherrer Haute Couture, 1991

Versace Haute Couture, 1991

Emanuel Ungaro Haute Couture, 1991

There’s been several takes on optimism and humor, Schiaparelli, Capucci, Kenzo Takada, Issey Miyake, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Moschino, and Isaac Mizrahi have all given their celebratory spin on life, adding to an evolving discourse. But its most pertinent iteration is perhaps in the Haute Couture of the very early 90’s, just as the recession challenged its relevance and provoked it to come up with something to say, that despite its excess it still had a message worth taking note of. As much as fashion needs its palate cleansed it cannot deny the wonders that a cheerful perspective and certain amount of richness can grant, even if it is only laughing so that it won’t cry.