People: Fashion icon Jil Sander turns 80

A unique sense of beauty, a vision of fashion and incredible hard work: With these skills, the Hamburg fashion designer Jil Sander managed to make her way onto the acclaimed catwalks and into the exquisite wardrobes of the world.

People: Fashion icon Jil Sander turns 80

A unique sense of beauty, a vision of fashion and incredible hard work: With these skills, the Hamburg fashion designer Jil Sander managed to make her way onto the acclaimed catwalks and into the exquisite wardrobes of the world.

The designer, born Heidemarie Jiline Sander in 1943 near Wesselburen (Schleswig-Holstein), revolutionized women's clothing with her purism in the 1980s and 90s. Their minimalist and comfortable cut, best quality blazers, shirts and trousers, influenced by men's clothing, shaped the style of modern women in Europe and overseas who were struggling for independence. It also set standards for accessories and cosmetics.

The brand she founded and named after her still exists and inspires today. Although she no longer belonged to Jil Sander in 2000, she continued to work for her for five years. The Hamburg native overcame considerable difficulties during her phenomenal rise.

Today (November 27th) the discreet, successful woman with residences near Plön, Hamburg, Berlin, Gstaad (Switzerland) and Ibiza (Spain) is celebrating her 80th birthday. Where and how she will do this is unknown. She only revealed one thing to the German Press Agency: "I like to forget this birthday and go traveling."

Jil Sander and her brand are still well known and have had an enormous influence on fashion. Jil Sander, the inventor of the “onion look,” is the most internationally successful German designer, says Bisrat Negassi, head of the fashion and textile collection at the Museum of Art

"Queen of Less"

The Hanseatic city in which Jil Sander grew up with her mother and her second husband after two years in Heide (Schleswig-Holstein) became the nucleus of her unique career, which earned her the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1996) and the Personality Award. Prize of the German Design Award (2018) and the honorary title “Queen of Less”. In 2017, the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt/Main held the first major solo exhibition of Jil Sander's work.

But first Sander was drawn to the big wide world and the young woman with the casually styled blonde curls and a burning interest in clothing that she had had since childhood first left her northern German homeland. “I was very particular about clothing when I was six years old and I advised my family on how to dress,” Sander told People magazine “Gala.” She studied at the State Engineering School for Textiles in Krefeld (North Rhine-Westphalia) and the University College Los Angeles (USA). She then worked in New York at the women's magazine "McCalls".

After two years, Jil Sander returned to Hamburg in 1963, where she worked as a fashion editor for the magazines “Constanze” and “Petra”. At the age of 24, she sold her VW Beetle so that she could open a black-painted boutique in the up-and-coming Pöseldorf district. However, as an aspiring businesswoman, she failed with her idea of ​​having well-designed fashion manufactured in India and selling it at democratic prices. Jil Sander then fundamentally changed her concept.

Connected to the Bauhaus

In addition to designs by Parisian luxury designers such as Sonia Rykiel, she offered her own fashion from 1973 onwards. "It was probably the 'female clothing' that irritated me because men were allowed to wear completely different, more practical things. I was jealous of them," said the designer of the "Gala". She relied on functional understatement in restrained colors made from specially developed high-tech fabrics, wool, cashmere, silk and linen. “The inner qualities are strengthened when the outside is right,” she always said.

Sander saw himself as connected to the Bauhaus. In doing so, she went against the contemporary taste in fashion, which preferred colorful and decorative things. “I got to know and appreciate Jil Sander as a particularly passionate designer,” said her Hamburg colleague, the “Kashmir Queen” Iris von Arnim.

Sander was able to overcome her difficult early years financially thanks to a lucrative perfume license. She offered a fragrance and care range with the cosmetics manufacturer Beecham - and advertised them with her own face, which made her known as a personality. At that time, “Woman Pure” and “Men Pure” were released at the same time.

Back in the fashionably exalted 80s, Sander presented her collections at the internationally important press shows in Milan. From 1983 to 1985 she also worked as a professor in the fashion class at the University of Applied Arts Vienna - as Karl Lagerfeld's successor. In 1989, she took her company public and served as CEO.

Worldwide success

Jil Sander flagship and franchise stores were created around the world, including in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taipei. In the 90s she developed a men's line that soon contributed 20 percent of the group's sales. After triumphant years, the Hamburg native entered into a joint venture with the Italian Prada Group in 1999. At a later point in time, she sold her majority shareholding to the partner - for an alleged 275 million marks.

In 2003, she took over design responsibility again at the company bearing her name, which had been in the red under Prada's leadership. Sander achieved success once again. But in 2004 she separated from Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli and took over the design from Jil Sander for the last time in 2012.

This time too, Sander received a lot of recognition. Just a year later, the Hamburg native turned her back on the brand named after her for the last time, according to her own statements for personal reasons. In 2014, her partner, Angelica “Dicky” Mommsen, died of cancer at the age of 72. Sander also lived with her on the Ruhleben estate near Plön (Schleswig-Holstein).

The fashion designer's hobbies, who have never worn jewelry, include garden design and collecting contemporary art. Sander also plays golf, loves hiking in the mountains and driving.