After eight years away from her eponymous label, Jil Sander returned last weekend at Milan Fashion Week — and she brought the same minimalistic sensibilities that made her a fashion powerhouse along with her. At her spring/summer 2013 runway show on Saturday, the German-born designer showed that she’s still skilled at creating the basic work wardrobe that women have come to expect from (and love about) the Jil Sander label. But compared to the epic show that her predecessor, Raf Simons, who is now at the house of Dior, put on during the fall/winter 2012 fashion week, Sander’s new work appeared bland and expected, with muted tones and the usual silhouettes. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t groundbreaking either.
With a theme of “Reset to Zero,” the audience may have expected that Sander would all but erase the legacy that Simons left the last time the brand showed at fashion week. And she did. While keeping on the inescapable trend of menswear for women — sending down pieces like tailored coats and vests, slim pants and pencil skirts, and boxy, billowy blazers — Sander easily adhered to her trademark aesthetic without taking risks that could force the critics to turn against her.
Instead, the critics seemed torn between panning her return collection and praising the label’s continual commercial success. Cathy Horyn from the New York Times claimed that, “the most important thing to take away from her show on Saturday was how powerful the Jil Sander brand is.” Robin Givhan from The Daily Beast said: “One could not admire it for tenacity or applaud it for daring — although one must surely give Sander herself credit for having the nerve to come back to a brand that had carried on successfully without her.” Tim Blanks from Style.com pointed out that the collection “made a worthy enough start” in reclaiming her place among the fashion elite.
But no matter the critics’ lukewarm response, the industry as a whole is behind Sander (after all, who doesn’t love a fashionable comeback story?). Even more importantly, Sander’s customers will be thrilled to see the items they adore re-imagined by the woman who made the looks popular in the first place. If it’s not broken, why try to fix it?