Jil Sander decamping Milan for Paris Fashion Week isn’t the brand’s only big story. Today, Only the Brave announced its acquisition of the Jil Sander brand from the Japanese company Onward. With this, Jil Sander joins OTB’s artful stable of luxury brands, including Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Amiri, and Diesel. Co-creative directors Luke and Lucie Meier are staying at Jil Sander’s helm.
The acquisition has been rumored since late last year and reflects a budding opportunity for the Meiers. As a design duo, they have decades of shared experience, he at Supreme and OAMC and she at Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Dior. When they were named as the co-creative directors of Jil Sander in 2017, they inherited a brand in flux. Jil Sander herself had just departed her third stint as creative director, having pushed out the beloved Belgian designer Raf Simons, who vaulted the brand to international success during his tenure in the aughts and 2010s. The Meiers were known for being resolute behind-the-scenes designers, but could they carry a global brand?
Things got off to a shaky start, with attempts at minimalism that bordered on austerity. Blanched color palettes. Clean lines, no frills. A seriousness that seemed without irony. As my colleague Nicole Phelps wrote in 2018: “The Meiers are committed minimalists and assured technicians; they’re a good fit for Jil. But it might still take really getting in touch with nature to revitalize this label.”
Since then, the duo have done exactly that. Yes, they launched a very nature-centric sub-brand collection, Jil Sander Plus, but they have also inserted sparks of their own passions and obsessions into their work at the main label. The brand’s fall 2020 show, the last before the pandemic put the world on pause, was prescient with its rich chenille blanket wraps and long silk fringed dress. There were exuberant home clothes that could stand the wear and grit of the real world. Customers longing for elegant, wealth-signaling clothing that is more offbeat than what other beige-hued behemoths like The Row, Max Mara, and now Fendi offer will find it at the Meiers’ Jil Sander. The groove they’ve nestled into is luxury clothing that not only makes you look rich, but makes you look smart, cultured, and tasteful.
That makes them a perfect fit for the Only the Brave roster. At Marni, Francesco Risso conjures up eccentric luxuries, as does John Galliano at Maison Margiela. Only the Brave’s president Renzo Rosso is also the founder of Diesel, whose “Successful Living” campaigns of the 2000s made low-rise, dark wash jeans into an intellectual statement. “I have admired and respected Jil Sander since the fashion house was first established,” Rosso said in a statement. “Despite the changes of ownership and creative direction, the house has always stayed true to its founder’s vision, maintaining an absolute commitment to beauty, quality, and its signature minimalist approach. To be able to welcome this timeless jewel to our group of unique, unconventional labels is an honor and a long-term undertaking.”