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Jil Sander on +J: ‘In our times of crisis, we want more essential clothes with an ethical dimension.’

By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA, The Philippine Star Published Nov 20, 2020 5:00 am Updated Nov 20, 2020 7:10 pm

Fashion will always reflect what’s going on in the world. In 2009, the Great Recession of 2007 still lingered. H1N1 flu was declared a global pandemic. And like a glimmer of hope, Barack Obama became the 44th president of America. Throughout the ride, people traded in their low-rise jeans and rhinestones for more sensible pieces to cope and survive. 

While Jil Sander had been on a hiatus from designing after she sold 75 percent of her company to Prada in 2000, the “Queen of Less” surprised everyone with +J, a partnership with Uniqlo in 2009. At the time, the Japanese retailer was in the process of expanding in America.

In the same year, a new generation of designers influenced by Sander, notably Phoebe Philo on the helm of reviving luxury house Celine, paved the way for a resurgence of minimalism.

Luxury was redefined. +J is unique as, rather than working with a brand, the collection was a collaboration with the designer herself. Right from the debut Fall/Winter 2009 collection, recurring for a total of five seasons, +J enjoyed both commercial success and critical acclaim.

In 2012, Jil Sander returned to her brand and Uniqlo opened its first store in the Philippines.

When Uniqlo announced +J’s return on social media in this challenging year, fans commented they still wear their +J pieces — its quality had stood the test of time. They probably don’t need any more “stuff,” but this comeback soothes like a balm. A +J oversized shirt (in either ivory, black and white, or with contrasting color patterns) won’t fix everything, but it helps you power through. And ranging from P1,990 to P4,990, it’s an investment that won’t break the bank.

The new +J collection combines fine tailoring and sculptural shapes. Volumes, while generous, are well-fitted. Hybrid down styles, utility-inspired jackets, military blousons and cashmere blend coats have a full yet body-conscious cut.

Weaves like herringbone tweed and surface treatments on functional fabrics animate the pieces with a tactile visual impact. Tailored jackets and gabardine pants in wool have a papery finish. Sweaters are knit from fine-gauge cashmere to extra fine merino wool and blends that feel like a warm hug.

YSTYLE: Have people’s relationships with their clothing changed at all due to the current global pandemic? And how do you think this collection will be perceived by Uniqlo customers in this new context?

JIL SANDER: I feel that people want clothes that express the new situation to themselves and to others. They are more serious minded and look for something that supports them mentally and aesthetically for the tasks at hand.

It’s been over 10 years since your first collaboration collection launched with Uniqlo. Tell us what it’s like to partner with the brand again for fall/winter 2020.

I really enjoy working with Uniqlo again. I value the resources, the logistics and the know-how of this great Japanese company.

What have been the most notable changes these past 10 years and what’s your response to customers’ needs in terms of design? Has something remained constant over these years?

My design attitude hasn’t changed. I still look for deceivingly simple, but highly sophisticated, solutions to contemporary problems. But the world changed a lot. In our times of crisis, we want more essential clothes with an ethical dimension. They should shelter us, show our attentiveness to details and convey our energy to face the world. They need to give us a fresh start.

What inspired you, for example regarding colors, silhouettes, fabrics, in designing the new men’s and women’s collection?

In our actual situation of more distanced social relationships, it is important to keep the individual aura of a person well intact. That’s why I was looking more than ever for three-dimensional forms and attractive movement. This aim is achieved by quality fabrics with standing power, interesting weaves, meticulous workmanship and colors that are reduced, clear and becoming.

What message do you wish to convey to customers about this collection?

The message is to take heart, to stand your place and invent yourself anew according to the problems everyone has to solve.

Any challenges this time for you to create the high level of design that you are used to, but at the accessible and affordable prices that Uniqlo offers?

Our aim is to offer high-end sophistication at democratic prices. Of course, this process is challenging. But I am confident that we’ve resolved the obstacles and will surprise our customers with a desirable collection.

Which pieces from the collection would you yourself like to wear and why?

To me, my design is very personal. I wouldn’t want others to wear clothes I don’t wear myself.

Uniqlo is known for being a Japanese brand with its own unique concept called “LifeWear.” Is there anything in particular that interests you and inspires you about this concept that you have referred to in the new collection?

Our formula, when we started with +J 10 years ago, was: “Luxury will be simplicity, purity in design, beauty and comfort for all. Quality for the people.” Nothing has changed in my vision.

What is your passion today?

I am dedicated to hand on my experiences as a luxury designer and provide high-quality clothing to a democratic multitude.

How do you relax during busy times?

Nature is always there to relax and ground myself. I am taking long walks and tend to my garden.

Please share with us your favorite place in your home city of Hamburg and why.

My favorite place in Hamburg is the Alster lake in front of my studio windows.

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+J is now available at uniqlo.com/ph and at the Uniqlo Manila Global Flagship Store in Glorietta 5, Makati. Customer purchases are limited to one piece per item, per person.

Banner caption: Jil Sander  Photo by peter Lindbergh