The creative dynamic Luke and Lucie Meier have brought to Jil Sander isn’t just a reflection of the two of them sharing art and life, but also an echo of the big-picture conversation about the redefinition of identities around the intersection of masculine and feminine codes. “In our designs there’s always this tension between the masculine and the feminine,” they mused in their studio in Milan. “It’s always there in some form or another.” The husband and wife pair complement each other with the same easy flair that they give their experiments between rigor and plasticity, severity and fluidity. They describe their process as an exercise in “searching and finding that right pull, whether it’s an artisanal gesture breaking something very strict, or something soft being broken by something very rigid and structured. That play is always there.” For resort their search for a point of symmetric repose between opposites played out in what they called “deflating couture,” a turn of phrase defining sculptural, elegant volumes “collapsing” into softer, gentler, fluid shapes. Seen through this lens, their suiting consisted of sharp-cut, narrow-shouldered, and fitted jackets worn over ultra-voluminous trousers, almost like next-generation palazzo pants. The sartorial is a territory the Meiers navigate skillfully, favoring extreme precision in cutting and construction as well as a romantic feel for the handcrafted; a case in point was a sharp-structured, overcoat in a pale mauve, without lapels, fastened with a single hand-blown glass jewel button, and worn over a black tunic with a feminine ruffled collar. The play between fluidity and structure gave the collection character and appeal, and was consistent throughout. An elongated dress of voluminous couture construction was made in delicate white cotton voile, a rather humble material; straight-cut tunics and tops with plunging necklines were given a transformable twist with the addition of turtlenecks or t-shirts in contrasting colors worn underneath. The season’s version of the tuxedo had a similar versatile approach; it was proposed as a fluid combination of a pleated-bib black chemise and a pair of billowy, liquid trousers. You cannot take the sense of rigorous chic out of the Meiers.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
The clash of 90s minimalism with her Ukrainian heritage is Svitlana Bevza‘s signature style at her New York-based brand. “Due to the separation of the pandemic, it’s important for us to show something very Ukranian historically,” the designer told Vogue. Her main inspiration was Olga of Kyiv, who ruled in the 10th century and is known for her revenge on the people who killed her husband. The knit balaclavas, one of which opened the show, were inspired by Olga’s iconography, but for the 21st century they were paired with matching blazers and knee-high leather boots. Bevza also incorporated the image of the spikelet, a symbol of good harvest and an optimistic year. Last season the label introduced spikelet earrings; this time, subtle, grain-like shapes appeared in the boots, caped dresses, denim skirts, and in the chunky fringe adorning some of the knits. With mustard and slate blue livening up the typical Bevza color palette, the sophisticated and soft silhouettes spoke to life at home. As Bevza said, “It will last for a while that people are at home with no parties, but we have to feel and see ourselves beautiful in the mirror.” That’s the smart take-away coming from most designers we’ve seen so far this season.
Seeing both The Row womenswear and menswear in one collection makes so much sense. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsens‘ autumn-winter 2021 collection is like the full picture of their luxe minimalism world, now shared by her and him. The designers decided to modify their showing schedule, skipping New York Fashion Week altogether and showing in January and June. One of the reasons is logistics and sustainability. Both the women’s and men’s collections are rooted in minimal tailoring and they share materials across them; these include the double-felted wool of outerwear, wool flannel for suits, and a textural knit that they call fur cashmere, all of them subtly luxurious. Of course, the collection is delightful – and feels like detoxicating palette cleanse after all the couture fantasy we’ve experienced last week. Their autumn suiting is strong across both genders. The women’s jackets come with removable shoulder pads, as does a mock-neck, midi-length cashmere dress. Alongside the tailoring, they showed wrapped shapes, emphasizing comfort and warmth. A male model looks practically cocooned in a three-piece fur cashmere set. Amid the oversized proportions and the swaddled forms, a button-down with short three-quarter-length sleeves worn with washed linen wool pants that taper at the ankles stands out. On the accessories front sturdy burnished-leather rain boots in a range of lengths look like top sellers in the making. They’ve also added a nylon tote to their handbag offering. Comfort and practicality have become important talking points in the last year as the pandemic has impacted the industry in so many ways. The Olsens are taking on those conversations – and the one about collection timing, too – but they’re doing so in their usual elegant, refined way.
The Row‘s autumn-winter 2020 collection is a line-up you want to return to once in a while. Especially, when it’s getting colder outside. As the models skimmed quickly by in flat slippers and boots, the thrill behind Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s line-up was in the finesse of the cuts, precise but relaxed, especially with the addition of turtlenecks layered under silk button-downs or worn solo under jackets. The tailoring is refined and subtle in shilhouette, and the outerwear is a sure winner of the season. It’s quite clear that the designers looked at Martin Margiela’s Hermès years for inspiration – especially the layered knits and long, grey gloves that seemed to blur with the clothes. But I’m fine with that.
Minimalism is integral to the Jil Sander brand, and Lucie and Luke Meier make it feminine, contemporary and distinct. And embracing a consistent, visually-recognisable signature is something that’s key to many brands this season. The designers have been back in the Jil Sander studio since May. They’re thoughtful about the lockdown and the changed new world that they returned to, but resolved. “We’re going about life in a normal way, just wearing masks,” Lucie said on a Zoom call. Their new collection for the brand, where they recently rounded their three-year mark, responds to some of the shifts we’re all living through, with more time at home and fewer social engagements to buy for. Luke said they emphasized daywear, for instance. To be sure, there are no stay-at-home sweatsuits in the Meiers’ new lineup. Instead, Lucie said, they “softened” their tailored silhouette and added sheer organza to the mix for a more “intimate” sensibility. In a video they filmed for the season, models clutched pillowy, unstructured bags designed to feel “comforting to carry.” The collection is enlivened by zingy shots of gold and yellow amid its neutrals: flat metallic leather boots that extend above the knee, a sunny dress that follows the line of the torso but flares gently below the hips. Clothes with a human touch are Meiers’ signature. That came across this season in the hand-crocheted overlays worn on top of slip dresses and in the way a shawl was tied voluptuously over the shoulders of a sleeveless tee. A pair of hourglass-y color-block sheaths were a surprise, a glimpse of a more carnal side that felt especially new in the context of Jil Sander.