For Jil Sander creative directors Lucie and Luke Meier, if SS21 had to be distilled into two words, they would be ‘simplicity’ and ‘quality’. “Women have to deal with many things as they go about their daily lives and have to dress accordingly,” Lucie explains, before unveiling the couple’s latest collection off-schedule via a film on the Jil Sander channels. “We want to create pieces that people will have in their lives for a long time. The idea of simplicity is that everything becomes important—you can’t get away with a bad fabric, detail or imperfect cut.”
While Luke recognises this philosophy “isn’t revolutionary” and they’ve cared about these values for a long time, this season was about “reaffirming them.” And with the world in a seemingly never-ending state of uncertainty, this thread of consistency is more welcome than ever.
The Meier’s meditative SS21 collection — standout pieces include a fluidly tailored overcoat in buttermilk leather, a ripple-effect silk dress in sunflower yellow and slouchy bags cradled under the arm—is telling of the duo’s approach to design. Luke, who is Canadian, Swiss-born Lucie and Hamburg-founder Jil Sander’s adoptive home of Milan may have gone into lockdown midseason, but from a production standpoint, the Meiers had no reason to panic: having worked in advance, they had already completed one round of fittings and selected many of the materials.
Here, the couple tell the story of their collection and share their thoughts on the future of the fashion show and how the industry can reduce its environmental impact.Designing a collection as a duo must be vastly different to your roles as design director of Supreme, Luke, and your time at Dior, Lucie. Have you developed a working process?
Lucie: “We have a team that’s working on the pre-collection, a team working on the show, and then there’s the men’s team. These collections are one after the other, so it’s continuous. We start a collection with a discussion and then put a brief together for the team.”
Luke: “That first conversation between the two of us, whether it’s about film, photography, art or music, forms the blueprint for the collection—we never throw it together two weeks before the show. Our relationship has been based around this sort of dialogue for more than 15 years, since we met while studying [at Polimoda fashion school in Florence].
“It’s about what feels right; what we’ve done in our three years [at Jil Sander], and whether we want to explore something fresh and different. The conversation then evolves with the team. We don’t like the idea of hierarchies—it’s not a modern way of working.”What were you looking to achieve with the fabrics, cuts and silhouettes this season?
Lucie: “With the colour, there were subtle tones but we were also attracted to bright colours, such as the yellow silk-viscose dress. That dress is an important piece because there is an ease and elegance to it. Paired with flat shoes, [the look] mixes these masculine and feminine attitudes together.”
Luke: “We’re always hunting for artisanal techniques and hand touch. For example, we created a coat from a puzzle woven leather technique, something that we found at a small atelier in Tuscany, which has a striking graphic effect—we loved the idea of making a garment from that workmanship. [Sculptor] John Chamberlain’s twisted metal sculptures and his use of colour was a reference for fabric manipulation, too—there’s always evidence of the human touch.”What kind of atmosphere did you want to create with the film?
Lucie: “We filmed on a soundstage in Milan. The floor was painted black, but it’s very scuffed and there are tape marks everywhere. Even though it’s simple, it’s very alive as a space and has an industrial feel.”
Luke: “[German dancer and choreographer] Pina Bausch’s elemental approach to set design was a touch point, but we wanted it to be even more stripped back, even more simplified. Working in such an environment let the clothes, movement, and emotion feature. A live fashion show is a performance in a way because you’re creating an environment—lighting, sound and so on —and we still wanted to transmit that.”How did the experience of creating a film compare to a live fashion show?
Luke: “The question is really, ‘What replaces a show?’ That’s what’s on a lot of people’s minds. In a sense, nothing does. But film, a photograph, social media, a website, a shop window—they’re all tools to convey emotion and a point of view. A film takes longer than a show, which is 15 minutes and then you’re done. There’s the editing process and that’s exciting because you choose the different ways you show things and emphasise them. It’s nice to find a balance and blur the lines between the physical and digital.”What efforts are you making at Jil Sander to reduce the fashion industry’s impact on the environment?
Lucie: “On the consumer side, if you buy fewer things but better things, it’s the responsibility of luxury brands to make sure their products are good enough quality that they’re going to last. Our eternal mission is to find the best materials that have the least impact and offer people [products] that last a long time. That’s nothing to do with marketing or convincing people that’s our competitive advantage —it’s just the way it should be.”
Luke: “There needs to be emotion in beauty, rather than just a pragmatic approach to quality. We’re pushing our suppliers to make our fabrics that we use every season — such as cotton poplin or wool gabardine — more sustainable. The leather suppliers we work with [are developing] a circular water process to contain the tanning and dying. Sustainability should be the standard.”Also read:
Nicolas Ghesquière shares his hopes for the future of the fashion industry
Gabriela Hearst on making her Paris debut, and why she’s continuing to push the boundaries for SS21
Thom Browne spring/summer 2021 is fit for a lunar odyssey