Cel­e­brated fash­ion de­signer Jil San­der gets an over­due ret­ro­spec­tive at Frankfurt’s Mu­seum Ange­wandte Kunst, writes STEPHEN SHORT


ONE OF THE most in­flu­en­tial, off-the-radar, pre-emp­tive fash­ion de­sign­ers of her gen­er­a­tion,

Jil San­der’s sig­nif­i­cance is due to an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­cep­tiv­ity that en­abled her to an­tic­i­pate trends and so­ci­etal changes. Founded in Ham­burg, Ger­many in 1968, her epony­mous la­bel sold a 75 per cent stake to the Prada Group in 1999 – only for her to quit her own house the fol­low­ing year af­ter dis­putes with Prada CEO Pa­trizio Bertelli, Mi­uc­cia Prada’s hus­band. San­der was sub­se­quently lured back twice – from 2003 to 2004, and from 2012 to 2013, re­spec­tively re­placed by Mi­lan Vuk­mirovic and Raf Si­mons dur­ing those in­terim pe­ri­ods – by the se­cond time she re­turned, the com­pany was (and re­mains) in the hands of Ja­panese in­vest­ment group On­ward Hold­ings. Ul­ti­mately, she quit the brand for good to de­sign col­lec­tions for Uniqlo.

The sim­ple fact of fash­ion’s fast-mov­ing and fickle fief­doms is that the Ger­man-born San­der, now 74 years old, was the proto-Mi­uc­cia; her sil­hou­ette was wor­shipped by the cre­ative set.

The woman who wore Jil San­der was cool, con­tem­po­rary, clean and clever. She could also be a busi­ness­woman. And she wore Jil San­der; it didn’t wear her. To some the la­bel was aus­tere and an­gu­lar with male char­ac­ter­is­tics, al­most anti-fash­ion, lack­ing Mi­uc­cia’s later sen­si­tiv­ity and the fem­i­nine edge. But that was part of its ca­chet. San­der has had a knack for de­vel­op­ing un­ex­pected, mod­ern shapes in fash­ion, and her purism has trans­formed our no­tions of beauty and iden­tity. Her core de­sign prin­ci­ples – har­mony of pro­por­tion, so­phis­ti­cated three-di­men­sion­al­ity, un­der­state­ment and dy­namic el­e­gance – have al­ways re­mained the same. And yet, she has pre­sented the fun­da­men­tals of her aes­thet­ics in each of her col­lec­tions in com­pletely new ways.

We’re re­minded of all this by a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive, Jil San­der: Present Tense, cur­rently show­ing at the Mu­seum Ange­wandte Kunst in Frankfurt un­til May 6. The first ex­hi­bi­tion of her work in a 50-year ca­reer is a mul­ti­me­dia spec­ta­cle, com­bin­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, colour, light, film, sound, text, photography, fash­ion and art in dy­namic spa­tial com­po­si­tions. As such, the ex­hi­bi­tion is less a ret­ro­spec­tive over­view than it is a fresh in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Jil San­der spirit and its aes­thet­ics – which is all very fit­ting, given her ca­reer-long predilec­tion for be­ing so for­ward-look­ing. mu­se­u­mange­

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