updated 28 Apr 2010, 10:31
    Powered by
user id password
Wed, Apr 28, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
EmailPrintDecrease text sizeIncrease text size
Uniqly Jil Sander
by Hong Xinyi

It is a bit of a deja vu moment. When German designer Jil Sander began introducing her minimalist aesthetic to the world in the late 1980s, fashionistas were entranced with loud colours, bold shapes and the general glitz and glam that marked the style of that era.

It took close to a decade before her insistence on 'basic, perfectly fitted clothes, made with intelligence', as she puts it, became recognised as the epitome of austere elegance.

Cut to almost 30 years later and after a five-year hiatus from the fashion industry for Sander, now 65.

Once again, the 1980s look is ruling the runways and high-street stores.

And once again, Sander's distinctive look - scrupulously clean lines, muted palettes, precise details - is back and cutting through the froth and frivolity of the moment like a steel Ginsu knife through a meringue.

The difference, of course, is how she is staging her comeback.

This time, the designer best known for impeccable luxury is entering the high-street fray by partnering Japanese casualwear brand retailer Uniqlo on the eagerly anticipated +J collection.

Launched in Japan last Friday, the line will be offered in 90 Uniqlo stores worldwide.

In Singapore, the +J collection will be available on Dec 3 exclusively in Uniqlo's third and largest store here at 313@Somerset. The date coincides with the launch of the store.

Out of the whole 140-piece collection, 91 designs will be brought in to Singapore for the launch, with 61 styles for women and 30 for men.

Prices range from $29.90 for a shirt to $229.90 for a coat.


'There is no great difference between designing for the luxury market and for the high-street customer. My principles and my aesthetics stay the same,' Sander tells Urban in an e-mail interview.

'My joy as a designer lies in dedicating myself to a garment through a meticulous fitting process and making it as perfect as it can possibly be. A prototype is a prototype, regardless of how often it will be reproduced.'

Indeed, she sounds positively giddy over the prospect of going mass.

'Right now, I am very excited about the prospect of reaching a large number of customers all over the world. It is a great challenge and almost feels like a mission to provide a new, global generation with excellent basics, and to prove that a truly satisfying, smart and modern outfit does not need to cost a fortune.'

Her own fortunes, of course, have been subject to considerable fluctuation.

Sander founded her eponymous fashion house in 1975 and luxury conglomerate Prada Group bought a majority share in her company in 1999.

Disagreements over the direction of the brand prompted her to leave in 2000, followed by a brief return in 2003 and then a permanent split in 2004.


+J will mark a high-profile return to the spotlight for her. It is also central to the fortunes of Uniqlo.

The Japanese brand has previously worked with designers and artists like Alexander Wang, Kiminori Morishita, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquait and Miho Aoki.

But Sander is by far the biggest name it has snared to date and one with sensibilities that seem tailored for Uniqlo's image.

The collaboration was initiated by Uniqlo's creative director, Yukihiro Katsuta, who told Britain's Telegraph newspaper recently that he was a big fan of Sander's work and had bought many pieces from the last collection she designed for her former label because he did not think he would ever have the opportunity to buy her designs again.

A Uniqlo spokesman tells Urban: 'The collaboration is a perfect combination of the brand philosophies from two different labels.

'Careful attention is paid to ensure that Jil Sander's style as a designer shines through the collection and that Uniqlo stays true to its brand philosophy of creating affordable, quality and innovative clothing for everyone.'

The connection with Sander has provided a critical boost and a lot of press coverage for the brand, which has huge international ambitions.

With 777 stores in Japan and 90 in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Britain, France and the United States, the brand is aiming to be 'the world's largest purveyor of cheap yet chic clothing in the next 10 years', The New York Times reported recently.

Its new store at 313@Somerset will measure 17,000sqft, making it Uniqlo's largest store in South-east Asia.

It is not an unexpected expansion for a brand that has attracted intense interest from consumers here since debuting in Singapore six months ago.

'The response from consumers have been outstanding,' says a spokesman. 'We did not expect such an overwhelming response.'

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.