Jil Sander has seen the view from this backstage area many times. It was, for instance, the space where she showed her first men's collection 15 years ago. But today, the tower of the Castello Sforzesco was swathed in scaffolding. "Under construction," the designer remarked, with the droll insinuation that what her audience was about to see was also a work in progress. Don't call it a comeback, though. It's not like she's been out of work. Sander was quick to point out that her gig with Uniqlo kept her busy, with trips to Tokyo every six weeks. There, her mantra was "Class for all." Here, for her return after seven years to the label that bears her name, she'd updated it: "Comfort, fashion, class."
The show notes mentioned "unlearning easy," and there was an unquestionable formality to the long, lean, almost Edwardian proportions of the jackets and coats, many of them double-breasted, some of them sleeveless and worn over white poplin shirts. Maybe the tailoring was the class. Sander paired those pieces with shorts voluminous enough to be considered board shorts. They were definitely the comfort. They were also a reminder that one of Sander's stated criteria when she designs for men is "Not like Papa," the point being that guys don't want to dress like their dads. Which is why the baggy shorts might also have belonged to German schoolboys of a distant and more authoritarian era. (There were schoolboy cowlicks in the hair department as well.)
Perhaps the shorts brought the fashion too, even if they did cover the knee, which is so far Spring 2013's favorite male feature. Another fashion statement was made by the colors and prints, from knitwear and gauzy tees, with constructivist color-blocking and patterning inspired by artists Blinky Palermo and Robert Mangold, to cabans in buttery yellow and vivid cobalt blue, to a coat and shirt in a matching honeycomb pattern.
This of course is not the first time Sander has retaken the reins here after a hiatus of one kind or another. But setting aside the brutal truncation of Raf Simons' stint under her name, this was a much more confident, convincing homecoming than Sander's last try. She knew it. She was positively radiant backstage. And she didn't wait for the million-dollar question. She asked and answered it herself. "Why do I keep working? Because I love it."