In a season when designers are desperately targeting Gen-Z, Jil Sander’s Lucie and Luke Meier made clothes for grown-ups. That kind of commitment breeds loyalty in women of a certain demographic and income bracket who feel left out of the fashion conversation (and still love Old Céline). “We were thinking about elegance,” Lucie said backstage. “We really wanted to focus on sculptural tailoring, almost couture-like, but we like this new energy, a very cropped silhouette.” The Jil Sander woman is wearing a wool skirt suit, its jacket sculpted with an hourglass volume and the skirt just peeking out from beneath its hem, or a slightly longer, flippier skirt with a cape-like jacket. Completing the silhouette are Chelsea boots with gold hardware, flat and sturdy. Dresses with the same above-the-knee proportion and flat bows at the shoulders and waist called to mind Pierre Cardin, whose death in late 2020 has precipitated new interest in his brand of 1960s minimalism. There were longer, softer lengths as well, including on a group of black dresses whose special details – a deep-v neckline, say, or voluminous bell sleeves – gave them a lot of cost-per-wear value. The Meiers have made handcrafts (like macramé and crochet) an essential part of their Jil Sander aesthetic. This season they pared that back, featuring only one print of astrological signs on drapey stretch jersey or quilted satin, choosing three-dimensional fabrics with surface appeal, like the bouclé on a pair of short dresses and the finer gauge knit of a long dress with fuzzy mohair sleeves. The exception was the guipure lace they used for a trio of long dresses, including one in a sensational shade of marigold. The white and black versions were shown with tailored single-breasted jackets, which is indeed a very elegant, very grown-up way to approach black-tie.
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.