Designer Jil Sander announces she’s staying at Uniqlo

29 April 2010

Working women around the world will be breathing a sigh of relief when they hear that German queen of minimal, Jil Sander, has confirmed that she LOVES working for Uniqlo – and is in no hurry to go anywhere else soon.  

“Since I’m very, very impressed with what we can do and what Uniqlo can do, I decided to go on. So I’m timeless for the moment,” she told trade mag WWD.
So committed are the brand and designer to each other that plans are afoot shift her design studio from Tokyo to Hamburg in Germany to avoid the taxing intercontinental commute. “I still have a big studio there,” she added.

The Japanese brand is going from strength to strength financially at the moment and +J its collaboration with Ms Sander is always quoted as one of the jewels in its high street box.

Ms Sander had another reason to smile this week when she picked up the Designer of the Year award from the Fashion Editors Club of Japan at a gala dinner on Tuesday. This is the first time the club has awarded the prize to a non-Japanese designer, but Sander qualifies since Uniqlo is a Japanese company.

“I try as much as possible to give you a great basic product and what comes out, I feel, is really amazing,” Sander said of +J, adding she has been pleasantly surprised at the quality of many affordable fabrics, including high-tech cottons, silks and cashmere; “you don’t have to pay more to have a great form.”

Clearly the customers agree with her, as many high-end/High Street collaborations launch with lots of fanfare but don’t continue longer than one season.
In the past, Sander has enjoyed a reputation as ‘a perfectionist’ (read – not big on collaboration). She left her eponymous designer label in 2004 when she clashed repeatedly with Patrizio Bertelli, her new boss after she sold a stake of the company to Prada.
Either she’s mellowed in her old age or Uniqlo really is the perfect boss because she goes as far as to credit holding company Fast Retailing’s chairman and chief executive officer Tadashi Yanai, who also happens to be Japan’s richest man.

“He’s extremely open and very modern in his vision, so this is very helpful for me. We are exchanging our skills from our different worlds,” she said.

Everyone knows that minimalism is enjoying a major fashion moment just now. Designers in all four capitals have either abandoned or branched out from the razzle-dazzle extravaganza of the previous few seasons – box shoulders, sequins and body con minis are out, and sumptuous coats, nifty trenches, and trousers so well cut that treadmills are unnecessary, are in.
From a fashwan point of view, it’s never been so cool to be smart in the daytime and from a practical one, because we all have jobs, collections like +J make dressing stylishly for work a lot easier.
The next thing on the to-do list? WWD reports that Sander is looking into the possibility of a shoe and bag range at +J. Very excited about seeing those come through!

- Naomi Attwood


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