L'OFFICIEL EXCLUSIVE: Jil Sander Contends Fashion Must Have Relevance

Before the normalization of brand collaborations Jil Sander launched a surprise collection with Uniqlo in 2009. Ten years later today, the legendary designer speaks with L'OFFICIEL about reviving her highly-coveted +J.
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Jil Sander photographed by Peter Lindbergh.

"If you don’t leave the house nonchalance is quite excusable," Jil Sander tells L'OFFICIEL. "But I feel that I not only dress for others but for myself. If I make the effort, my mood is enhanced. I look differently at myself and my options." It's been almost a decade since the fashion world has been given wearable news from the archetypal designer known not only for her essentialist approach to design—Sander is known by many as "the queen of minimalism"—but also for her mystery. Unlike many other creatives beholden to the machine of the fashion, Sander has always moved at her own pace; from the establishment of and departure from her own eponymous fashion house to her cult-favored team-up with Japanese-founded Uniqlo, +J, which began in 2009 and ended two years later. Now, when the world could not be any more different than how it was before, +J returns with a similar mission and zeitgeist rethought for the present. The collaborative Fall/Winter 2020 collection, which debuts online and in Uniqlo stores today, is a technical response to global uncertainty in the form of streamlined essentials that shape the body and last a lifetime. "Confident clothes will translate onto the phone and the screen, and they will inspire my plans," says Sander, discussing the quarantine that much of the world still finds itself in. "And after all, we still meet people. Even in the crisis." Here, the designer speaks to L'OFFICIEL about what to expect from the new collection, decadal differences, and her hopes for the future. 

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An exclusive look from +J Fall/Winter 2020, Sander's return collaboration with Uniqlo.

L'OFFICIEL: After a decade-long hiatus, what inspired your decision to create another collection with Uniqlo?

JIL SANDER: I am inspired by the potential Uniqlo has—the logistics, the buying power, and the distribution network—to help me create a truly democratic collection with high class materials and contemporary design. The moment seemed right to translate my ideas into a timely version of +J. 

L'O: What have you been working on in the years in between?

JS: I have been building, gardening, and digitizing my archive. I also prepared a museum show ["Present Tense at The Museum Angewandte Kunst"] of my work in Frankfurt.

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Scenes from Sander's atelier in Hamburg, Germany.

L'O: The world is very different today than what it was in 2010. In which ways have you seen the fashion system change for better and worse?

JS: The fashion industry is coping with many new challenges. Responding to globalization, mass marketing, and the digitalization of communication has completely changed the rules. Sustainability and fairness became a major issue in the last 10 years. That’s quite a lot to orchestrate. In responding to all these expectations and requirements, the original mission of fashion—to express its present time—got somewhat out of focus. Fashion design, as I see it, should not just be Instagram-y and optically sensational. I prefer clothes to stand back and underline the individual in an understated and sophisticated way. Fashion should have relevance, and propose new proportions, materials, and cuts. If it looks and feels contemporary and respects the individual body, fashion can give us the necessary optimism to brave our problems collectively and move ahead.

L'O: How does the new collection relate to the +J lines of the past? 

JS: The +J spirit has stayed the same, but the zeitgeist is different. I turned towards large-sheltering volumes and took care to fit them precisely so that the bodily shape is not lost. With an eye on the present crisis, Uniqlo [originally] asked me to create ten “best pieces," but I convinced my Japanese partners to do a capsule collection for women and men. Since the [Fall/Winter 2020] collection is quite concentrated, it was a challenge to keep the message and an overall consistency. 

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+J Fall/Winter 2020

L'O: Are there any particular design or technological innovations that you were challenged by while creating the collection or are happy to have achieved?

JS: We created interesting high techs, cashmere and merino wool hybrids, and surface finishings. For example, a gabardine for suits with a papery grasp. I am happy with Uniqlo’s know-how concerning new materials. 

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Sander's debut collaboration with Uniqlo in 2009.

L'O: Who are or what do you look to for creative inspiration these days?

JS: Everything I see works on my mind and [with] my ideas. I can’t close my eyes, I always judge and think of improvements. I never had muses, but I learned a lot from contemporary art and architecture, and from perfect things such as the sky and a garden.

Fashion should have relevance, and propose new proportions, materials, and cuts. If it looks and feels contemporary and respects the individual body, fashion can give us the necessary optimism to brave our problems collectively and move ahead.

L'O: Just weeks after the Spring/Summer 2021 shows, Milan and Paris have both seen lockdowns and curfews. What do you think of the high fashion world right now? Is there a point to the runway?

JS: I am a fervent advocate of the fashion show, even though it is exhausting and a big investment. You can see a design in action on the runway and not just as a flat picture. But I can think of other, more personal and intimate possibilities of presenting a collection in analogue space. We will see more of these formats in the future.

L'O: You've said that clothes should be long-lasting. Are there any particular personal pieces that you own that you've kept for some time?

JS: I still cherish my white shirts from Egyptian cotton and look forward to the +J Spring/ Summer collection for renewing my stock. I also still wear a dark blue sturdy wool jacket from the last +J collection. With its military collar, it’s perfect for Hamburg's weather.

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Inside Uniqlo Tokyo, one of the newest flagship from the retalier, where +J Fall/Winter 2020 will be available starting today.

L'O: As we end 2020, what fashion trends (or attitudes) do you predict will return or start anew in the next decade? 

JS: The fascinating thing about trends is that you cannot predict them. But I hope that well cut sophisticated uniforms will be more visible.

+J's Fall/Winter 2020 collection is available online now. 



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