"The last in my couture trilogy" was Raf Simons' description of today's Jil Sander show. His fascination with traditional couture codes and the women who followed them has transformed his approach at the house, compelling him toward his best work. With this new collection, Simons pulled a whole lot of threads together to tie up his story. One thread was his undiminished sensitivity to the Sander legacy: the purity, the elitism, the artistry. But another, more interesting one was his own wonderment at the world of women and the closed societies they create for themselves.
Here, there was the beauty parlor/spa scenario that opened the show, with the signature Jil Sander white poplin shirt reconfigured to read as garb for either therapist or client. The show closed with another passage of white that reflected Simons' longtime fascination with the female rituals associated with marriage. How would a woman look if she got married in Jil Sander? he asked himself. Quite fabulous, if that last floor-sweeping, bowed-at-the-waist, Grace Kelly number was any indication.
There's something endearing, almost naive, in such a question when it's attached to a label as quintessentially sophisticated as Jil Sander, but that is what Simons has brought to the brand: a deeply inquisitive, wide-eyed open-mindedness that has allowed him to insinuate his own passions into the Sander lexicon. Today, there were some great intarsias lifted from Picasso ceramics. "The icon of modernism," Simons called him. But the visuals were also an elementary cue for the mid-century modern spirit that was the foundation of the collection. The lean, tailored, below-the-knee lines of Simons' dresses were all about complete mastery of his métier, the same quality you'd recognize in a couturier, an architect, an artist. But these are clothes we're talking about, after all, so there were color, texture, and patterns, too. Gingham and paisley, in fact. Just about as trad as they come.
Emblematic, also, of a more hope-filled era. There was that in today's show, as there was in Miuccia Prada's show the other day. These women in their glossed, pure spa world were visions of a perfectly controlled moment of unambiguous optimism about the future. "Yes, optimism," agreed Raf. "And health!" But the underlying frisson was, of course, that the millisecond complete control is relinquished, chaos will naturally reassert itself. And that may well be the cue for Raf's next chapter at Jil Sander.