"Epic masculinity." That was the florid claim Jil Sander's press notes made on her behalf. There is no masculinity more epic than a military man's, so it seemed logical enough that Sander's collection would draw on military references: double-breasted great coats, stand-up collars, army greens and Russian reds, maybe even a bandolier effect in the crisscross pattern on a sweater. But no, insisted Sander. No theme, just mood. And the mood was vintage Jil: high-closing three-button suits, elongated knits, mysteriously textured fabrics. It was, the designer claimed, important that the clothes encapsulated her past. That equaled integrity for her. The sleeveless bits and pieces were a throwback to the vulnerable Sander boy (even if they were rendered in black pony skin). But, mercifully, it was more the label's future that the show pointed toward, and that future looked bright. For one thing, Sander marched out a collection of coats that will be hard to better this season. For another, her repertoire of tones and textures managed to inject a subtly off-center degree of interest into menswear standards: sweater, peacoat, caban, duffel, blouson. That stand-up military collar, for instance, was actually Sander's version of a stand-alone scarf, detachable, to inject formality at will.
You could never claim Sander as the most lighthearted of designers (her soundsmith certainly took up those cudgels today by soundtracking her show with the sepulchral croon of Scott Walker), but there was a note of restrained celebration in this collection. Epic? No. Masculine? Yes. Menswear is easy, Sander insisted. It's womenswear that's the drama.