Jil Sander has had a turbulent relationship with fashion. She first left her label in 2000 after clashing with Prada owner Patrizio Bertelli, to whom she had sold the Jil Sander house. She was encouraged back in 2003 after a short stint from Milan Vumirovic, but she left again. And in stepped Raf Simons.
Simons has achieved a lot in his seven years at Sander. Not only was he barely experienced in womenswear before his appointment as creative director, but he transformed the house. His couture trilogy made Jil Sander a benchmark of simple dressing and Simons made a name for himself as one of the most exciting names to watch. But this collection was easily his best. As always there was a beautiful simplicity to his clothes; the colour palette was soft and pretty and the lines were calm. The models moved slowly, allowing us to absorb the roomy collarless coats in pale pink, navy blue and blush cream, some held by the hand, others swinging open, implying that things not held together will fall apart. Bustier dresses in soft cashmere, leather and PVC had space to move at the hips, and sleeveless dresses in cream and nude were the perfect ice cream accompaniment. There were flashes of nostalgia, harking back to Simons’ defining moments at the house; the bubblegum pink dress couldn’t help but evoke the memory of Spring 2011’s maxi skirt parade, and the metallic pieces were parallel to those of Spring 2007. Style.com’s Tim Blanks noted that chaos had been introduced into the perfect world of Jil Sander; ironic that Simons’ perfect forms were splintered by flashes of material or colour – his dream world is no longer. But the clothes felt like they came from the real Simons and they were a hauntingly beautiful swansong.
There have been whispers around the Dior job all season. With Simons leaving Jil Sander and rumours of Stefano Pilati making the move from YSL to Dior, we may well see Simons taking up residence at YSL. It will be interesting to see how he works at a new label, but for this moment, Jil Sander was his. As the collection took flight in its entirety there was a standing ovation, led by none other than Anna Wintour. And as a tearful Simons took his final bow, one couldn’t help but pray for Jil Sander. Rightful owner though she is, she’s going to need a real slice of magic to follow on from Simons’ genius.