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Jil Sander: From Minimalism to Murals

Godfrey Deeny
June 21st, 2009 @ 00:02 AM - Milan

How best to react to the disastrous economy is the ever-present question in the Italian menswear season that opened Saturday, June 20, in Milan. In the case of Jil Sander, its designer Raf Simons took a surprising tactic for a house synonymous with minimalism: Japanese fantasy imagery.

Sander’s new creed was inspired by Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, a Japanese painter who emigrated to France in 1910, befriended everyone from Modigliani to Picasso and converted to Catholicism at the ripe age of 73, nine years before his death.

So Foujita’s Paris nightclub meets the Sistine Chapel images appeared on clinging cashmere cardigans, gentlemanly shirts, tank tops and cricket player’s jeans that all looked like instant collector’s items in this show, staged in Sander’s central Milan headquarters.

Overall, Simons' color palette was mega minimalist, varying from white to ecru to the palest silvery blues. Both were the same colors seen in the giant backdrop composed of two paintings by Foujita, “Combat” and “Grande Composition.” Simons added zest to his monochrome looks with smart details, from the silver piping of shirt collars to the white trim on black car shoes.

Some of his looks were more than a little improbable, like a series of soft collar shirts cut long and finished with pockets that seemed too contrived for an older gent, and too stiff for a junior in his twenties.

However, Simons sure knows how to introduce must-have accessories. The collection featured a great new sandal with high-tech sneaker soles with Roman centurion uppers that are likely to be coveted by hipsters next spring.

“It’s all about love, and getting together,” said Simons backstage, after this loving homage to a once globally famous, though now obscure, artist.

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