There’s always been a puritanical quality to the work of Lucie and Luke Meier, but in this Jil Sander collection, it transitioned into a more articulated kumbaya. That sensibility was carried by crochet wrapped around necks and heads and spliced with oversized blazers and tuxedo jackets that couldn’t have made for a bigger contrast. “We liked this really elegant, masculine silhouette, but with a sensual side to it, as well,” Lucie Meier said after the show. “We start a lot with tailoring, just to see what we really want to do and say and what we care about. But this time, we worked it into typically feminine techniques as well,” Luke Meier added. The meeting between crochet and strong tailoring made for expressions that were more focused on trend and statement pieces than previous proposals from the Meiers, whose collections usually feel more centered around the idea of a wardrobe. Backstage, Lucie pointed as to why: “You kind of miss people who really dress up and have a kind of eccentricity,” she said, referring to the way the pandemic has cramped our collective style, or at least our opportunity to show off said style. As a symbol of “personality and individuality,” Luke said, the designers scattered astrology prints and zodiac embroideries around the collection, intensifying the hippie energy of it all, only to contrast it with the rigidity of sharp lapels poking out from layers under jackets, and suit trousers tucked into hard, pointy Santiago boots with metal heel caps. It was a bold proposition for post-pandemic self-expression, but one the aspiring street style stars of fashion week will no doubt embrace.
The celebration of individuality is what drives creatively Luke and Lucie Meier at Jil Sander. “For us it’s really important, the idea of working around the character,” they told Vogue during a preview of the pre-fall 2022 line-up. “The person in its humanity and uniqueness is at the center of our creativity.” What the Meiers have brought to Jil Sander is a progressive yet thoughtful approach, articulated with intelligence in a narrative both consistent and nuanced. Their repertoire is expanding; whimsy and eccentric flair now embellish their disciplined, exacting range. “We’re not considering stereotypes, rather multifaceted attitudes and personalities. Human beings are complex animals,” they said, suggesting that inspiration finds its way through a texture of emotions and connections, leaving excessive analyzing in the background. “We’ve been thinking a lot about our friends, people we know, even ourselves, all the different emotions we’ve been through. So it just felt right to be almost more impulsive, to indulge the spur of the moment, enjoying a certain freshness and lightness.” The collection was bookended by two similar looks, both two-piece propositions – a sharp-cut top/skirt ensemble in ivory double-faced matte viscose knit, compact and sculptural; and a turtleneck/skirt combination in off-white ribbed wool. Beautifully embroidered with sequined crochet intarsia at the collar, on the sides, or at the hem, they draw attention to the decorative as a subtext to Jil Sander’s sartorial clarity. “Both looks have a chandelier kind of shape, they look rather decadent. It’s nice to offer something special, less ordinary.” The offering’s standouts exuded the boldness and confidence of one-of-a-kind pieces. Among the noteworthy examples: an exquisite bias-cut evening dress in soft undyed silk in a pearly shade of ivory, its skirt opening up in a corolla shape garlanded with long silky fringes; a cocooning wrap coat in spongy wool in a delicate hue of eau-de-Nil, jacquarded with a curlicued abstract motif, a bavolet at the back sporting twirled fringes made from the yarn; and a sharp-cut skirt suit in black double-faced wool, embroidered with an inserted guipure piece breaking the severity of the design. And of course, lets not forget about the teddy-bear boots. Those will sell out fast. “It’s about eclectic elegance and strong individuality,” is how the designers summed up this brilliant collection.
Lucie and Luke Meier made a life change this year – they had a baby girl in June. That kind of development can alter a designer’s perspective, and backstage they discussed their new point of view: “It’s about embracing a positive future,” Lucie said. “Yes,” interjected Luke, “kids are a material reminder that the future has to be better.” In their four years at Jil Sander the Meiers haven’t often talked about emotions; in the past, at least, they’ve been more comfortable discussing the cut and line of their clothes. This season the cut and line were, at turns, boxy and oversize or lightly nipped. Those details are important, they’re what separate the grownups from the kids, after all; but they’re only part of why people shop for and buy fashion. In the end, it often comes down to emotion. And tapping into personal emotions is bound to make a collection feel more connected. That’s what this Jil Sander collection felt: more connected to real life. Chalk that up to all the denim, which was cut loose and slouchy and in washes beyond basic indigo. Or chalk it up to the models’ mules and boots, which were chic yet still friendly. For spring-summer 2022, they experimented with a range of pastels and brights, and added in some zebra print for good measure. The purple-ish tone of the overheads made the colors shift as the looks came down the long runway. “We’ve learned not to take things too seriously,” said Lucie. That came across clearest in a couple of outfits at the end, which layered sequin-embroidered shifts over trousers and boots. Those sequined shifts count as a real departure for the Meiers: loose, playful, and fun.
“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.”