“This collection is really about individuality, about the uniqueness of the person – we really cared about the human [aspect],” said Luke Meier on a Zoom call with Vogue. What we experienced in quarantine, he explained, was “the feeling of longing for special people in our lives, the interesting characters we missed, the importance of interaction.” The dialogue between fashion and art, “how they fit together,” as Meier said, isn’t just an important conceptual component in his and his wife Lucie’s fashion practice; it’s also one of the central topics of their course at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where they head the fashion department. “For us it’s always about how good design can enhance the individual life of a person and the beauty that surrounds that person. It shouldn’t be just about making an object that’s beautiful,” said Luke. “In everything artistic there should be something functional, and it has to be at the service of the person,” chimed Lucie. Given this line of thought, “the ideas and philosophy behind the Bauhaus movement became relevant references for us,” she said. Resort was about harmonizing artistic gestures of decoration with the clarity of design and purpose they’ve brought to Jil Sander. Each piece was given an individual character, in a sort of syncopated yet quite cohesive narrative. What tied the eclectic offering together was a sense of soft playfulness, smoothing the edges of sculptural silhouettes inspired by the graphic lines of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet costumes. Undulating ruffles, fringed tassels, feathers, studwork, and statement jewelry gave grace to neat, elegant shapes. A dramatic sleeveless black-top-and-round-skirt ensemble in guipure lace, a chic strapless trapeze dress in off-white silk gazar, and a sleek pantsuit with a detachable round capelet also in silk gazar – one of the collection’s main fabrics, “as it holds the shape beautifully” – all looked like they came out of a couture atelier. Lucie’s work at Dior as co–creative director after Raf Simons’s departure in 2015 seemed to gently resurface. “There are elements of couture,” she said, “but I like to keep them light and playful, with a more casual, lighthearted attitude.” The Meiers’ flair for the artisanal, which they integrate into their equal fondness for rigor, was in evidence in a deep-dyed multicolored summer dress with brushstrokes across the bodice. It signaled a more lively use of color and patterns elsewhere, as in a slim leather overcoat printed with a figurative motif of dancing women, painted by an illustrator friend. “It’s stark but jovial,” joked Luke. It was a rather accurate summing up of the collection’s mood – the joviality certainly induced also by the recent arrival in the Meier family of little Ella Rose, who made a sleepy cameo appearance at the end of the Zoom call.
It’s an important time for the duo behind Jil Sander. Two-and-a-half weeks ago, Lucie Meier gave birth to a daughter. “It’s three of us now,” said her husband and co-creative director Luke Meier. Lucie hadn’t tried to hide her pregnancy, but since everyone outside her studio had only seen her neck-up on a Zoom call for the last nine months, no one realized. “I worked until a week before, but it’s good to be two,” she said. “Luke could take over.” They had begun working on their men’s collection some three months into the pregnancy, so, as Luke pointed out, “I don’t know if it’s conscious and present in the work yet.” The designers were, however, more reflective about the fashion world than normal. On a video call from Milan, Luke lamented fashion’s commercialization of parts of the sports – and streetwear that shaped him (he spent eight years at Supreme), and fondly remembered the eclecticism and individuality of New York street style in the early 1990s. “You’d see people on the street who’d be able to mix things like tailoring with an interesting piece of jewelry and something more functional like a parka. We were thinking about Jean-Michel Basquiat or Glenn O’Brien, these seminal New York characters,” he said. “Now, things are a bit uniform: there’s ‘this kind of person’ and ‘that kind of person.’ It’s nice to see people going for something that’s not considered the coolest thing of the moment.” While their collection was a reaction to uniformity, uniforms were undeniably present. Between utility suits, flight suits, strictly-belted tailored suits, and slender leather shirts with matching leather ties, there was an air of tonal, monumental dressing, which did go hand-in-hand with the industrial influences of the post-modern New Yorker artist wardrobe, but also evoked more symbolic uniforms of the post-war era. That wasn’t on the mood board, but the designers explained that the look they had in mind was about interrupting familiar or generic lines with pieces that express a certain individuality. That’s why colorful silken and fluffy foulards were tied around necks, why suits were bejeweled with jingly grape brooches, or why trousers were wildly magnified. It’s why a pink granny cardigan suddenly popped up, then a sexy cheetah print gilet, then a jumper motif that seemed to have zoomed in on a fragment of a multi-colored argyle pattern. Those graphic, color-block elements were nods to Donald Judd, whose SoHo building Luke would pass every day, admiring its Dan Flavin installation, when he lived in New York. After being stuck in the same places for so long, with the selfies of social media as our only real window to people-watching, this re-emergent period could trigger the individuality the Jil Sander designers are hoping to experience in the street once again. “I miss those characters and that world,” Luke said. “I don’t if it’s because we’ve been stuck inside so much, but I just want to see some interesting people.”