MILAN — In a world ruled by bags that scream status, Jil Sander's new accessories collection by creative director Raf Simons whispers luxury.
While the brand champions slow but sure growth to maintain quality and design momentum, Simons and chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris have moved fast to set up a new accessories division and production pole in Jil Sander's post-Prada era.
London private equity group Change Capital acquired Jil Sander from Prada Group in February 2006.
"We're really keen that the accessories are on the same level as the ready-to-wear, so we had to reestablish a supply chain and network," said Ferraris.
Significant progress has been made since last September, when Giuseppe di Nuccio, formerly at Burberry, joined as manager of the accessories department. A team of 15 people (five more are about to join) is already at work, and production is in the hands of artisans around the Veneto.
"I want to make the accessories fashion-driven and edgy because they should be the perfect counterpart to a beautiful and longer-lasting cashmere coat," said Simons.
While Simons is busy completing a new store concept that will be unveiled in the second half of this year, Ferraris is adding accessories-only stores to the agenda. The first is slated to open in Moscow by year's end.
Accessories accounted for about 15 percent of Jil Sander's sales in 2005, or $23.4 million. Over the next five years, Ferraris expects to double that to 30 percent of sales.
In Jil Sander's stark, whitewashed showroom here, the 170-piece, pre-fall collection of shoes and bags is neatly displayed on the shelves. Simons melded technology with tradition by showing either geometric and structured totes or deconstructed oversize bags enriched with details that range from leather-bound magnet closures; hardware made with an alloy of real gold, palladium and brass that resists wear; pleated or ruched elements, and hand-stitched handles. The logo is hot-pressed on the hides and most of the bags are lined in suede and feature wallets attached to the interior.
"We want the bags to be functional, whether they're structured or soft, so some shoulder bags will have one strap slightly longer than the other so it does not keep rolling off the shoulder. We made tons of prototypes to find the right balance," said di Nuccio, who works with tanners to develop the exclusive hides and treatments.The top choices are a matte or shiny buffalo skin, calfskin, deerskin, sheared ponyskin and suede.
Dyes are hand-sponged onto the hides so they better penetrate into the grain, giving a sense of wear. The palette includes black, asphalt gray, chocolate brown and plum.
On the footwear front, Simons forecasts a comeback of pointy-toed shoes, which explains the sharp-edged boots, at times laced or influenced by riding boots, as well as ankle styles. They feature an inner wedge so the effect on the outside is super flat.
"A shoe is for me a real seasonal piece and I see it as something very graphic, architectural and future-oriented," Simons said. "I like to rework proportions and functions, using unexpected materials and colors, giving them a strong style."
Ballerina styles come round- or pointy-toed in futuristic combinations such as matte and shiny silver or ponyskin and patent leather. The sole is done with a Forties technique that bypasses seams.
Simons also reintroduced handmade styles for men and women with thick soles and hand-stitched vamps. The boots ring in at $10,000.
"A skilled artisan of about 65 can only assemble two pairs a day," said di Nuccio.
Retail prices for the footwear range from $364 for ballerinas to $3,641 for croc boots; bags go from $377 for nylon styles to $1,950 for an oversize shoulder bag.