With her purism, the Hamburg designer revolutionized fashion in the 1980s and 90s.
A unique sense of beauty, an eye for fashion and incredible hard work: with these skills, Hamburg designer Jil Sander has made it onto the acclaimed catwalks and 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.
Its minimalist and comfortable cut, best quality blazers, shirts and trousers, influenced by men’s clothing, shaped the style of modern women in Europe and abroad who were fighting for independence. She also set standards for accessories and cosmetics.
“I would love to forget this birthday.”
The brand she founded and bears her name still exists and inspires today. Although she was no longer owned by Jil Sander in 2000, she continued working for her for five years. The Hamburg native overcame considerable difficulties during her phenomenal rise. On November 27th, the discreet and successful woman with residences near Plön, Hamburg, Berlin, Gstaad (Switzerland) and Ibiza (Spain) will celebrate 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 travel.”
Jil Sander and his brand are still well known and have had a huge 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 textiles collection at the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg. “With clean lines and incredibly sophisticated cuts, she created intellectual fashion that celebrates understatement and is sophisticated.”
“/> Jil Sander with model Christy Turlington. IMAGO/United Archives/Valdmanis
Jil Sander with model Christy Turlington. IMAGO/United Archives/Valdmanis
The Hanseatic town where Jil Sander grew up with her mother and 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, 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 world and the young girl with casually styled blond curls and a keen interest in clothes that she had had since childhood left her homeland in northern Germany. She studied at the State School of Textile Engineering Krefeld (North Rhine-Westphalia) and 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 at the magazines “Constanze” and “Petra”. At 24, she sold her Beetle so she could open a black-painted boutique in the up-and-coming Pöseldorf neighborhood. However, as an aspiring businesswoman, she failed with the idea of having well-designed fashion made in India and selling it at democratic prices. Then Jil Sander, at once tender and tough, fundamentally changed her concept.