jil sander

Jil Sander 1943 German brand

Jil Sander is a German brand founded by the homonymous fashion designer in 1968: it stands out because of his refined minimal taste.


  1. The Origins
  2. The style of Jil Sander
  3. First boutique
  4. Haven in Milan
  5. Jil Sander acquired by Prada Group
  6. Raf Simons
  7. Uniqlo J+
  8. Navy collection
  9. Current situation

The Origins

Jil Sander Designer Portrait in 1983
The fashion designer in 1983.

Jim Sander was born on 27th September 1943 in Wesselburen, near Hamburg: she is methodical and creative, reserved and determined, fragile and energetic. In just a few years she built an empire, that was quoted on the stock market in 1989. With a diploma in textile engineering from Germany, at 19 she went to Los Angeles, where she completed her studies and had her first experience as a journalist in the editorial office of McCalls. Returning to Hamburg, she became fashion editor for Costanze and Petra and took on management responsibilities. As a freelance designer, she worked with a number of firms: among them, Callaghan.

The style of Jil Sander

Jil Sander Minimalist
The minimalist style of Jil Sander.

The most important representative of German fashion and one of the biggest names in international fashion, she succeeded in creating a intelligent, minimalist, and decidedly contemporary style. “Strong and pure” are the adjectives often used by her to describe her designs. She is considered the German Armani and her clothes are characterized by her use of neutral colors, purified lines, and full-bodied materials; her cuts are “made by the knife”, as she herself describes them, to create a femininity deprived of any frivolity, but not without a certain seductive austerity.

First boutique

Picture of Jil Sander in front of her Hamburg boutique 1968. Photographed By: Hans Rudolf Uthoff
Picture of Jil Sander in front of her Hamburg boutique in 1968. Photo by Hans Rudolf Uthoff.

In 1968 she opened an avantgarde boutique in Hamburg, the first of its type: there, she sold clothes  designed by her and garments bought in Paris and Italy. Strengthened by this experience and with an ambitious project in mind, in the same year she founded Jil Sander Moden and presented her first real collection in 1973, with all her pieces in varying tones of khaki. She had a difficult start as a fashion designer wanting to create top quality modern clothes, but of too great an elegance to be produced in Germany, where luxury ready-to-wear was still unheard of. It was only natural that she found the necessary materials, firms and people in Italy.

In 1975 she was in Paris, where she presented two collections in successive seasons. Too purist for French taste, her runway shows were a flop.

Haven in Milan

As a result, she was forced to move to Milan, a city which is more austere and therefore more in tune with her own personality.

Spring/Summer 1977 Campaign Featuring Stella Tennant. Photographed By David Sims
Spring/Summer 1977 campaign: Stella Tennant shot by David Sims.

Her first Italian presentations were quite affairs, reserved for just a few people, but the important buyers took note and soon they started fighting for an exclusive deal over her work. Her designs for intelligent, independent, business-like women were very popular:

“The women whom I think about when I am designing are very self-aware and full of self-respect,” she said.

Success came quickly and the purity of her designs, her constant research into materials and her obsession with quality were all prized. In 1979 she launched Woman Pure, her first perfume, with an advertising campaign built around her own serene, fair and delicate features, ensuring herself instantaneous fame and creating a new stereotype for German women.

Mame Fashion Dictionary: Jil Sander Women Pure 1980 Campaign
Woman Pure perfume campaign, 1980.

In the following years her international reputation was confirmed, as her business activities developed and moved into cosmetics, eyewear, leatherwear, and menswear, that she showed for the first time in Milan in 1996. She received numerous awards and prizes because of her fashions and perfumes. With a passionate interest in contemporary art, she is a discerning collector and a generous sponsor of exhibitions of leading German artists such as Georg Baselitz and Joseph Beuys.

Jil Sander acquired by Prada Group

Since Fall 1999, the Jil Sander label was part of the Prada Group. In 2001 the brand established record sales, with a 17% rise in profits. Unfortunately, in 2002 the brand lost 26 million euros, in part because of the costs of adding retail stores in London and New York; however the number of own-brand shops throughout the world rose to 20.

By May 2003 the Prada Group, in order to save the destiny of the company, called back Jil Sander as head of the creative team. Bertelli “approached Ms. Sander and began negotiating a truce”: so Jim Sander was rehired under a six-year consulting contract and with an undisclosed stake in the company. 

Raf Simons

Raf Simons for Jil Sander Spring 2007 Advertisement
Raf Simons for Jil Sander, spring/summer 2007 advertisement.

Nevertheless, in July 2005, the Belgian Creative Director, the fashion designer Raf Simons, took over Jil Sander after the umpteenth split with the Prada Group. Simons came to the brand to give it a particular international touch, much less rigid, by means of patterns and colours, new shapes and details.

In 2006 Prada declared it sold its shares to Change Capital, a specialist private equity firm founded by Luc Vandevelde, focused on consumer related businesses. Two years later, in September 2008, Change Capital sold Jil sander to Onward Holding Co. Ltd, a Tokyo-listed apparel group, and to its European subsidiary, GIBO’ Co. S.p.A, for a equity value of €167 million.

Uniqlo J+

Jil Sander For Uniqlo J+ 2011 Fall/Winter
Uniqlo J+, Fall/Winter 2011/2012.

In 2009, Sander announced her return to fashion as fashion designer: she partnered with Uniqlo, a brand which defines itself “manufacturer of good canal garments which everybody can wear”. She designed a menswear and womenswear collection called J+: it was launched in Asia (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and China) and since 7th January 2010 it was presented in London shops. It was launched in the only Uniqlo USA store, in New York, on 14th January 2010.

Navy collection

Jil Sander Jessica Burley FW15 Campaign
Jessica Burley featured in Fall/Winter 2015 Navy advertising campaign.

In 2010 Jil Sander decided to expand the brand and launch a new line called Jil Sander Navy, establishing a new branch for the younger customers and completing the aesthetic world of the brand and its design philosophy of pure, essential and innovative luxury. This brand extension added a sophisticated casual and dynamic attitude to the fashion house. The focus was on innovative quality cotton, techno fabrics, jerseys and knitwear.

After Raf Simons presented the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 collection, he announced his departure from the Milan based company, which welcomed Rodolfo Paglialunga, who arrived to give the Italian detailed accuracy to brand. A year later, in October 2013, 69-years-old Jil Sander left her label for the third time. She presented her last spring/summer 2014 collection during Milan fashion Week.

Current situation

Jil Sander Resort 2018
Resort collection, 2018.

After almost four years, in March 2017, the Creative Director Paglialunga gave up the brand. The next month Lucie and Luke Meier, a husband and wife duo which already designed everywhere, from Dior Haute Couture to Supreme, were appointed as new Creative Directors of the brand. Their first collection is Resort 2018, which is a steady solid start for the duo: the collection was full of their aesthetics, including elegance and purity made for fast paced city living.

“They hold a vision that is modern, cohesive and in touch with what is relevant now, and they beautifully combine it with a subtle sensibility. I expect the creation of very clever collections and a world to be inspired by,” said the CEO Alessandra Bettari.

In March 2021, the OTB (Only The Brave) Group, leaded by Renzo Rosso, acquired the brand from the Japanese Onward Holdings, which owned it. After suffered transfers from company to company – from Prada Group to Change Capital Partners in 2006 and, then, to Onward in 2008 – the brand came back to Italy. In that moment there was an executive changement, too: Ubaldo Minelli, already CEO at OTB Group, was appointed CEO at Jil Sander too.

In June 2023 Luca Lo Curzio replaced Minelli as CEO at Jil Sander: his long experience in the field (among the others, he already worked for L’Oréal, Luxottica and Zegna Group) was considered by OTB a useful element for the growth of the brand and of the group itself, which in 2022 registered a turnover of 1,74 billion euros (+ 14 % compared to 2021).

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