Designer Jil Sander in 1968, near her studio on Milchstrasse in Hamburg

2012 was a year of musical chairs for the fashion industry with the power structure at European houses in a state of constant flux. The Wall Street Journal published an article by Dana Thomas last week shedding light on how German designer Jil Sander returned to her namesake label. The piece serves as a great primer on Jil Sander’s storied fashion career and also exposes the circumstances of Raf Simon’s departure. I’ve included a brief excerpt from the piece below.

“Bringing Sander back was a gamble: The company had a capable designer, the Belgian Raf Simons, and sales, while not headline-making, were, as Jil Sander CEO Alessandro Cremonesi politely puts it, “satisfactory.” Fashion critics loved Simons’s clothes—influential Women’s Wear Daily columnist Bridget Foley wrote that his work at Jil Sander made the company “not only relevant again but essential.”

But editorial fandom does not always yield profits. During much of Simons’s tenure, the company remained solidly in the red. Last year, revenue was up 14 percent and almost broke even, but that was due, in large part, to “cutting costs and a more selective distribution,” Cremonesi says. The company’s executives, he adds, believe that it “has strong potential for growth.” Today Jil Sander does about $140 million in annual sales; ideally, they would like to return to the nearly $250 million turnover under Sander’s former reign. And the best way to do that, they believed, was “to get back to the roots of the company—to its DNA,” says Jil Sander Chairman Franco Pene. “And there was no one more capable of doing this than the original designer.”

Read the article in it’s entirety HERE. If you have an interest in how the luxury fashion business has changed since the 1980’s, I also highly recommend Dana Thoma’s book Deluxe:How Luxury Lost it’s luster. You can find it at local bookshops or on Amazon.

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