“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.”
This was a classic Jil Sander collection by the Luke and Lucie Meiers. Even too predictable. The life-and-work partners’ collection proposed clothes as tools for giving a purpose to people’s step in the wake of the pandemic. “It’s a time of change for everybody. To be able to achieve change you need to feel empowered to do so. The way you dress changes the way you feel about yourself,” said Lucie. Luke added: “You want people to feel better, to feel good, strong, powerful; that this is our future. This is our medium to do so.” Within the purist frames of their expression, they conveyed that message in hints of boldness, from the decisive sculpting of coats and skirts to hand-spun dresses with fringing cascading from the bias, and lingerie dresses with glamorous lashings of lace (very Old Céline). Big, ornate crystals made princely appearances. Still, it’s the slightly ‘wrong’ elements that make their Jil Sander offering interesting – think operatic gloves in pastel colours or the top-slash-necklace made of strings of pearls that opened the look-book. The designers have proven they can master a wardrobe that quietly but solidly evolves around the idea of ‘soft minimalism’ every season. I kind of wish they went a bit further and did something more surprising in the near future – maybe the brand’s new owner, Only the Brave’s Renzo Rosso, will let them champion that riskier side?
Lucie and Luke Meiers‘ soft minimalism also applies to their menswear collections at Jil Sander. This time, however, the designers seem to be a bit more serious than usual. Between their enveloping wool coats, elongated tailoring, roomy knitwear, fluid overshirts and comforting knitted collars, a more abstract interpretation of our wardrobe mindset than mere ‘comfort-wear’ took shape. Clinical wellies in dusty tonal colors evoked those worn with quarantine suits in science fiction and leather sashes easily conjured visions of spaceship uniforms. Most expressive of the feeling were woven metal necklaces and breastplates, and primitive pendants that spelled out “Mother.” References aside, the pieces spelled out the emotions of solitude and loss of familial contact the designers perceived over the time. “The letter forms are very simple. It’s the feeling he could have just found the metal and made it himself. But it’s very close on his body,” Lucie said. Sewn onto coats and knitwear were panels of frayed canvas printed with photographic portraits of flamboyant young female art students at the Bauhaus shot by Florence Henri in the 1920s. Worn by the un-eccentric young men that made up the cast, the effect wasn’t camp but very human; the male idea, perhaps, of missing a formidable female family member or friend. “It’s a show of familial affection,” Luke noted. The Meiers’ earnest design practice can feel stark or cold, but between its muted colors and themes of loneliness and longing there was an expressed emotional core to this collection that gave it warmth. “There’s a certain personal approach here. I try most of the things on, and I wear most of the pieces,” Luke said.
Lucie and Luke Meier‘s Jil Sander always feels like blank canvas, in a good way. No non-sense references, just delightful, soft minimalism that will never be “out”. And, you will love it even while staying at home. “Fashion is always a commentary,” reflected Luke. “It’s actually a very reactionary phenomenon, in that it reacts towards the zeitgeist, the moods and emotions of people or else towards a certain music or artist. So it’s only right that now you feel that need for ease in collections. What’s happening, it’s just impossible to ignore no matter how much designers are prone to live in a sort of creative bubble.” Lucie chimed in during a Zoom call with Vogue from the Jil Sander showroom: “This is presently the world we have to face, so we felt that in our work, it is really important that we’re not totally in dreamland. Our reality dictates today a different approach, whereas in other moments as a designer, you gravitate more towards a different set of references and inspirations. But we really felt that this is now and you just can’t ignore the different way we’re interacting together.” Having quarantined in their apartment in Milan, the Meiers wanted the collection to convey a more homey feel, albeit rendered with their exacting sophistication. To further channel the message, the look book was shot in an apartment, a modernist space mirroring the polished minimalism they favor (this part felt quite Bottega-Veneta-ish). Sensitive to the mood-lifting role fashion has to play now, they introduced a touch of spirited softness, a sort of feel-good factor which complemented the collection’s yin-yang dynamic between the ease of sporty practicality and the elegance of their chic, angular tailoring. Case in point: slightly oversized masculine blazers, whose straight-cut precision was contrasted by the delicately embroidered circle skirts and slender yet luscious dresses they were worn with. This year’s ubiquitous track pants were elevated in soft Nappa leather and worn under a collarless, sharp-cut jacket. It made for a cool silhouette, a kind of of-the-moment alternative to the classic tailored pantsuit. The intimacy, warmth, and protection we’re all craving inspired a series of great knitted pieces. An oversized wool-silk sweater was wrapped with a huge matching scarf, while a form-fitting, sporty ribbed dress opened to reveal soft cashmere leggings underneath, its exaggerated collar becoming an enveloping cape when unzipped. Artsy Bauhaus-inspired jewelry, including golden ribbon-shaped portrait necklaces and sculptural bracelets, added a dash of vibrance, while oversized bags in luxurious, supple leathers looked comforting and pillowy in a tactile, playful way. “Let’s be realistic—fashion isn’t going to cure the problems we’re in today,” the Meiers concluded. “But if putting on something beautiful elevates our mood a little, if we can provide something that’s inspiring as much as it’s practically useful, that’s then us doing a good job.”