Jil Sander A/W '12: Fashion At its PUREST Form...

Zina Tasreen , 27 Feb 2012
Front row editors that make or break a designer/fashion house, at the Jil Sander A/W ’12 show: (top) Vogue’s Anna Wintour & Hamish Bowles & International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes; (bottom) New York Times’s Cathy Horyn

First things first: I’m a little emotional as I write this piece. I’ve been captivated by the fashion world for as long as I can remember. There were shows that filled me with joy, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, greed, gluttony (not all at once!). Then there were some that made me dream, believe, purposeful. But, never before did a show move me to tears, just by the sheer beauty and purity of it, as Jil Sander’s A/W ’12 has, on the 25th of February, 2012. The big players in fashion too were left misty-eyed by the end. So, friends, I present to you this poetry in motion.

A teary-eyed Raf Simons taking his bow for the last time as the creative director of Jil Sander, after the breathtaking A/W ’12 show

What made the show all the more poignant was that it was Raf Simons’s final collection for this label, who leaves for Dior or to expand his own line with womenswear pastures unknown after this. Now, you *might* be wondering who Raf Simons is. Perfectly legitimate, considering he does not seek media exposure to the extent Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Michael Kors his peers have, and hence is not too well-known outside of the fashion industry. BUT, he happens to be the most influential designer of our times ‒ and that’s generally acknowledged. He introduced the slim silhouette in menswear (Hedi Slimane through Dior Homme, a household name, propagated the idea forward later on), and many a womenswear trends on the runways, through his showings for Jil Sander, of whom he’s been the creative director since 2006. The colour blocking, neon/fluorescent colours, use of couture shapes in ready-to-wear, huge billowing skirts, overblown coats, the jumpsuit as an equally dainty alternative to the evening dress… You name it, it was he who *planted* the seed of germ, and the rest of the designers *germinated* them, some in their own ways, the season(s) after. So, it’s awfully sad that this glorious 7-year tenure has come to an end.

Wildflowers in perspex cases at Jil Sander A/W’12

Perhaps to evoke this sentiment, glass cases filled with wildflowers were set on top of podiums, at intervals on the runway. With Mazzy Star’s Fade into You playing along, the ambience was that of a funeral parlour. But it soon turned into a hearty wake as the clothes came out…

The collection was a master class of modernism and technique: transparency, light, colour and proportion. He wanted to celebrate the multi-tasking modern woman, this time. There were sensuous slip dresses for those frisky mornings with the other half, swing coats to slip on for the school runs, authoritative skirt and pant suits and dresses for the office, delicate tea dresses for the afternoon tea, alluring cocktail dresses for the afterhours.The template was the couture forms of the 50s and 60s, but they were given a wholly contemporary spin via unexpected geometries of seams and fabrics.The colour palette was predominantly pastel ‒ blushes, light pinks, lavender, periwinkle and pale grey ‒ but Jil Sander’s trademark power dressing hues of black and navy were present too. It was all so serene, thoughtful, nuanced, gorgeously simple, wearable, refined, and asprirational, really.

Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12
Jil Sander A/W ’12

But it was the closing scenes that were the most extraordinary, which the audience consisting of many illustrious industry folks didn’t witness before.

A standing ovation, befitting a rock star or George Clooney, for Raf Simons at the close of Jil Sander’s A/W’12 show
Complementary tweets: (top) Federico Marchetti, the chairman of the YOOX Group; (bottom) Jessica Michault, online style editor of the International Herald Tribune

Of course there was a sincere, rapturous standing ovation for Raf, which he accepted in tears and walked off. But that wasn’t all!

Rather than rushing to the exits, as crowds invariably do as a show ends, the audience stampeded the catwalk and towards the backstage door, and stood cheering and clapping, refusing to leave, until a security guard made a tearful Raf return to take another bow. At this point, most people welled up – including the PRs who worked the show, editors and other fashion industry insiders. Truly touching, no? Scenes faintly close to this were last seen when Tom Ford left Gucci and YSL. Wherever he’s off to, he’ll continue to define contemporary fashion – and I’m waiting with bated breath for his next move…

P.S.: If you want to watch the entire show, albeit without the actual soundtrack, here you go. Or, scroll right to the 10:40 minute mark to watch Anna Wintour rise as a cue to the crowd for the standing ovation.

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