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Sander, Jil

sander’s germany prada company

B. 1942

Birthplace: Wesselburen, Germany

“Pure” is the word most often used by Jil Sander’s many admirers, not “poor,” as those who do not appreciate her clothing aesthetic might view it. Pared down, minimal, simple, and androgynous are other words that describe her creations along with modern, elitist, luxe, and elegant. By 1999 Sander was head of a company generating more than $200 million a year, producing clothing, cosmetics, and perfume coveted by men and women who understand her no nonsense, unadorned vision of quiet beauty.

Born outside of Hamburg in 1942, Sander is referred to by many as the Coco Chanel of Germany as well as the queen of good taste and understatement, characteristics highly valued by the country’s well-to-do. She was the first German fashion designer to show a ready-to-wear collection in Milan and is often compared to Giorgio Armani. Each takes credit for the invention of the unlined jacket, and each likes simplicity of line and color. All three—Chanel, Armani, and Sander—created clothing that answered the needs of the modern women of their time. But Sander’s almost sterile suit is probably the most basic “uniform” a liberated woman has ever been offered: the most severe, the most unglamorous, and the most discreet, a kind of secret only the wealthiest can afford, fabricated from the finest cashmeres, wools, silks, and linens.

Sander’s menswear collections reflect the same exclusivity and simplicity as her women’s wear. Even her fragrances express this cool chic. The most famous, called No. 4 (named with a number, á la Chanel), is presented in a cleanly shaped bottle and smells straightforwardly fresh. Her perfume, skin-care, and cosmetics lines, manufactured and distributed by Lancaster Group AG, are ranked as top sellers among the unpretentious rich of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Other licensed products include small leather goods produced by Goldpfiel and eyewear produced by Menrad, both German companies. However, in 1999, the Jil Sander company was acquired by Italy’s Prada Group; therefore, it is likely that other licensing agreements will be made with non-German companies. To Sander and her devotees, one thing will always be true: overdesigned, overdecorated anything is never stylish. True power lies in understatement.

In late January 2000, just five months after Jil Sander AG was purchased by the Prada Group, Prada Chief Patrizio Bertelli announced that Jil Sander, founder of the fashion house, had resigned her position as chairman and chief designer. As of this writing, Sander’s last collection for the company was her fall-winter 2000 collection.

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