Jil Sander

Born: Wesselburen, Germany, 1943

Jil Sander studied textile design in Krefeld, Germany where she graduated as a textile engineer in 1963. Participating as an exchange student with the University of California, Sander spent two year in Los Angeles. Working as a fashion editor for both American and German women’s magazines, in 1968 Sander moved to Hamburg where she opened her first boutique.  Selling designs by Thierry Mugler and Sonia Rykiel, she also started selling a small number of her own designs.

Believing it was important to grow a label slowly, in 1973 she launched her first women’s collection. Sold on Michstrasse in Hamburg, the collection featured luxury pantsuits and classic shirts.

In 1978 Jil Sander GmbH was formed and a year later Jil Sander cosmetics was launched. The same year male and female fragrances were released.

With the idea to create a label for ‘women with brains’, Sander’s minimalist styles were the opposite of the eighties lavish and glitzy styles. With sales steadily increasing, her minimalism popularity didn’t fully hit until the 1990s.

In 1993, Jil Sander opened the businesses first flagship store in Paris, at 52 Avenue Montaigne, highlighting Sander’s international appeal.

In 1997 a men’s collection premiered in Milan. The style fused modern masculinity with sartorial excellence. Two years later another flagship store opened in Tokyo. 1999 also saw the Prada Group purchasing the company as well as Sander collaborating with Puma on a trainer collection.

With Sander remaining creative designer of Jil Sander after Prada takeover in 2000, Sander unexpectedly resigned. However, in 2003 Sander returned to the company as head designer.

In 2005 Raf Simons joined the business as creative director. The following year The British Private Equity Fund Change Capital Partners bought Jil Sander from the Prada Group.

In 2007 a new accessories department was established under the influence of Raf Simons and the following year saw a new flagship store opening in New York, the first shop designed entirely by Simons.

In 2008 Jil Sander was acquired by Group Onward Holdings Co. Ltd. The same year an eyewear and jewelry line was announced.

In 2009, Sander announced the start of her own fashion consultancy. Her initial client Uniqlo, hired Sander to oversee the design of womenswear and menswear. After three years collaborating, Sander and Uniqlo split.

Raf Simons presented his final collection for the label during Milan Fashion Week for autumn/winter 12. Sander was reappointed as Creative Director to the label in February 2012. Joining the house for the third time, she commented to WWD “It feels very natural, even though it is like a miracle”.

In April 2014 Sander left her namesake label for the third time for personal reasons. The brand named as her successor Rodolfo Paglialunga, who until then was working for Prada.

Jil Sander is known for her understated elegance in her pantsuits and blouses. Her refined tailoring and fluid lines are iconic for the Jil Sander Label. Sander is also known for her minimalist aesthetic and global colours for her work with Uniqlo.

Jil Sander Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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