MILAN — Ask Luke Meier the biggest lesson he has learned so far sitting at the creative helm of Jil Sander with his wife Lucie and a concise yet striking love declaration is offered as the answer. “That my wife and I are indestructible,” he said during a Zoom call, his piercing eyes looking right into the camera emphasizing the conviction in his words.
It was the punchline of a 20-minute conversation that touched on different themes, from a reflection on the work the couple has done during their five-year tenure at the OTB-controlled brand to a new menswear push and a newsy change of show format.
While many luxury brands are switching back to present womenswear and menswear separately, the Meiers are embracing the coed formula again, planning to stage a runway show to introduce both lines’ spring 2023 collection in September.
“We’ve always liked that idea.…We have our minds both in men’s and women’s all the time, anyway. It’s really the same universe,” said Luke Meier about going coed, which is a format they favored in their early days at Jil Sander. As the womenswear offering included pre-collections, the couple then separated the lines to give menswear its fair dose of attention.
“We split them apart to kind of give the menswear its own moment, we felt that was really needed. And now we feel it’s quite strong, it stands right next to the womenswear in the right way. So to bring them back together can really show more the entire universe of Jil Sander the way we wanted to do it,” he continued. “It just took us a little while to establish it in the right way, but we feel now it’s the right time.”
The introduction of the first men’s pre-collection for resort 2023, unveiled on Monday, is also timely for the couple and is set to further achieve a balance between the two lines.
“We feel there’s an opportunity to expand what we’re doing a bit more,” said Meier, who believes “the relationship between a pre-collection and a show collection is interesting” as the former “gives you more of a breadth of different kinds of things to work on.”
Even if menswear has been growing at the company, Meier said there haven’t been any major changes in the way the designers creatively approach the category, as they channel their energies mainly on amplifying their work and “giving it more depth.”
The initial menswear resort effort exemplifies that attitude, reinvigorating the sharp and precise aesthetic of the brand with eccentric accents and crafty details.
“We do definitely work on sort of an ongoing evolution of our ideas, but I think each season we like to pull out something that’s unique for the collection,” said Meier. This time, the couple looked at the West Coast and California to explore what it represents to people and deliver a sense of ease and “freedom of doing.”
“It’s this kind of idea of postwar migration to the West, with this [notion] of possibility. There was something very positive…That feeling that you can go somewhere where you can dream of something, and there’s an environment that is embracing that.…It’s like willing culture: if you just want to try something, you could just do it, you don’t have a heavy burden of tradition in front of you,” said Meier.
As a counterpoint, he noted the geographical reference is also the land of Hollywood, therefore a more glamorous spirit was to be taken into consideration during the creative process, too.
The tension between these two facets translated into a charming blend of workwear and elongated, geometric silhouettes with polished fluid fabrics and sparkling effects. Suits were replaced by lean, round neck tank tops, neat shirt-jackets, boxy leather T-shirts and Japanese wool and cotton trenchcoats lined with colorful prints, signaling a fresher take on masculine wardrobe tropes. In the same spirit, high-waisted pleated pants and shorts were flanked by kilts and long skirts, which contributed to defining the new silhouette.
Cashmere and cotton knitwear, dyed or with floral fil-coupé jacquards, added a tactile quality to the graphic lineup, while its more eccentric expression was conveyed through palm tree prints in gradient colors, cascades of sequins and brooches punctuating the looks. The color palette ranged from butter and sandy tones to pastel hues, indigo and silver notes.
“Men are embracing design a lot more…there’s a sort of an attention to the details. They pay attention to their jewelry, accessories, their bags or even grooming and hairstyles,” noted Meier. “It’s exciting because I feel that there’s a different consciousness awakening a little bit, and not in a purely fashion sense. I think people are taking care of themselves a bit better, they want to present themselves better. They feel better if they go a little bit deeper than just [having] like one big statement piece.”
Consumers’ inclination toward improvement mirrors the designers’ attitude when questioned if they have set a target for their job at Jil Sander. “I guess it’s to always be better. You have short-, medium- and long-term goals…but I think the main one that is always there, every morning, is: how do we get better? And that doesn’t mean bigger, necessarily, it just means: how do we make everything better? Because we have quite a holistic approach, we care a lot about the way we work as well as the end result.…Because it’s our life, too, right? It has to be something that you enjoy doing, you have to be able to live, as well.
“So better collections, of course, better design, better ideas, more beautiful and profound imagery, just better everything. But also better approach to making it,” continued Meier. “In that sense, there’s never a finish line, right? You never find the target. And I think that’s one thing I find interesting about fashion — that you don’t do a project and stop, you have to always be engaged in doing.”
Also in light of this constant push forward, it wasn’t easy for the duo to pinpoint their pivotal moments at Jil Sander since their appointment in 2017. “We’re not very revisionist, actually. I mean, this job sort of forces you to kind of always be thinking forward,” confirmed Meier. Still, he identified the brand’s women’s fall 2020 collection as a favorite one so far, also because it was the last before the pandemic outbreak.
Yet the response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the whole industry to reinvent itself — at least temporarily — deserved even more recognition from Meier.
“I’m quite proud of the way that everybody managed to get through all of that because even when I look back at some of the look books, even the films that we made [during the pandemic], they’re really strong. I would never present those and say, ‘Oh, well, that was because there was all this trouble.’ I feel that’s only a testament to our teams and the people, everybody who really made a huge effort. I’m as proud of those collections as I am of the other ones that we’ve done under normal circumstances,” he said.
Despite having joined the fashion house five years ago, Meier said, “it feels like we’re still just really getting started, that it’s still just the beginning.” He additionally credited OTB’s supportive approach, adding that the group is “really hungry for things to go bigger.”
As reported earlier this year, the brand’s parent company unveiled an ambitious plan for the 2022-24 period, including eyeing an initial public offering to take place in 2024. OTB Group acquired Jil Sander from Onward Holdings Co. Ltd., adding it to its portfolio comprising Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf, as well as production arms Staff International and Brave Kid, and a minority stake in Amiri.