A strong personal connection as well as a solid, trusting husband-and-wife relationship lie behind the arrival of Luke and Lucie Meier at Jil Sander. They succeed Rodolfo Paglialunga, who exited in March, and are already making changes. The Meiers will work together on both the men’s and women’s collections, and they are embracing the coed show format, starting with the pre-collection.
Luke Meier is cofounder and designer of men’s label OAMC, and he will continue to also design that brand. His wife worked in the design studios of Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton earlier in her career and then headed, along with Serge Ruffieux, the spring and fall ready-to-wear and couture studios, respectively, of Raf Simons at Dior before stepping into the spotlight between the exit of the couturier and the arrival of his successor, Maria Grazia Chiuri. This is the first time the married designers have worked together.
Here, the designers discuss their new roles, their visions for the brand — and their immense respect for the house’s founder.
How did your personal and working relationship start, and how did it evolve into this agreement with Jil Sander?
Luke Meier: We met at [Florence fashion school] Polimoda, and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve both had different jobs, lived apart — Lucie in Paris while I was in New York. We talked about working together, but we didn’t have a big plan for how it would manifest — it just kind of happened. It felt like the right idea and the right opportunity.
What does Jil Sander stand for in your opinion, and why did you think it was a good fit for you?
Lucie Meier: There was a strong personal connection. I grew up in Switzerland, in Zermatt, in the mountains, far away from fashion. My mother is a big Jil Sander fan — those were the only designer clothes she would buy. She didn’t have much need [for them] in the mountains, but it was her secret passion — she absolutely loved Jil Sander clothes. That was my introduction to fashion; I was not much in contact with fashion there [laughs]. She would dress super-chicly in Jil Sander clothes, and I liked their impact, how they would transform her. To go to the store, it was such an emotional experience. I was captivated, and it’s the reason I wanted to work in fashion. The impact was so strong, it was fascinating. For me, it’s extremely important and influential and just really beautiful — perfection.
Luke Meier: It was a brand that I looked at, especially when I was living in New York in the mid-Nineties. At that moment, there were a few brands that were quite powerful, and I saw Jil Sander as very, very high level without being too visible — very elegant, very chic.
Lucie Meier: Very essential.
Luke Meier: Yes, you always felt you could go in and get something very beautiful, and the more I worked in fashion, I was very appreciative of the high level. That was a big draw. I liked the perspective of breaking a little bit away from the standard idea of what a men’s wardrobe and a women’s should be. She was one of the first to jump across boundaries. I wouldn’t say she was revolutionary, but very powerful, and that perspective attracted me a lot. I am originally from the west coast of Canada, and there are sets of rules there. Ms. Sander’s approach was to break a lot of rules. I found that very appealing. We want to work on both collections simultaneously, and we want there to be a strong dialogue between men’s and women’s, one voice and one perspective.
Lucie Meier: It totally makes sense.
Will you show during men’s or women’s fashion weeks?
Lucie Meier: During women’s. The first time will be in June, with both pre-collections. That’s what makes it really interesting, the fact that it’s a merger of the two — there is no definite split, it’s a cross-pollination of ideas.
Could you give us an idea of what’s ahead in terms of design?
Lucie Meier: For sure, we are not going to ignore [designer] Jil Sander, but we have to bring our own take. What that is exactly I can’t tell you yet [smiling].
Luke: Meier: We are not imagining other people. We are taking it from a very personal perspective; we want to create things we like and wear a lot. We’ve also been clients for a long time. We’ve been buying pieces. I think it’s something that we can honestly design from a place that’s very close to us rather than imagining something we don’t relate to.
We love the brand. Its imagery is so strong, we don’t have to pretend.
How do you plan to evolve the brand? What changes do you have in mind?
Luke Meier: We will be very respectful. We did not have to learn about [the brand], we knew it. It will be our perspective about it, but it will be there for sure.
Lucie Meier: We want it to be so relevant today as it was. Functionality is key. It’s as relevant today as it was when Jil Sander was designing. She was a working woman who had to run up and down the streets, being super-elegant at the same time. I think today it’s more needed than ever.
Luke Meier: We care a lot about reality. The pieces live in the real world. It’s not only about image, it’s about honest clothes.
Jil Sander was known for her luxurious fabrics and her passion for materials. What is your take on this?
Luke Meier: For both of us, it’s important that we’ve just worked on fabrics this past week. They are essential. It’s a link with the brand. We are looking at Japanese and Italian fabrics. We have the experience, we understand where we source fabrics, certain things are excellent in Italy and some in Japan, there’s a different touch and feeling, cotton and wool are very different whether they come from Japan or Italy, and it’s very different the way you can do things. Ms. Sander was one of the first to work with Japanese fabrics.
Given your experience with couture, would you consider adding it to Jil Sander?
Luke Meier: Maybe in terms of personal service.
Lucie Meier: I have nothing against gowns, but there needs to be this link to reality. It’s a different customer from Dior. Never say never, it could be something like offering a service. There is a place for gowns, but they must be the right gowns to fit the Jil Sander lifestyle.
There are not many married couples working together on the designs of an international fashion brand.
Luke Meier: We are both very opinionated and have strong points of view, but we don’t fight that often.
Lucie Meier: We trust each other.
Luke Meier: Pisces and Virgo — a good combination.