Monday, September 27, 2010

PURITY : Jil Sander on her idea of style

from Artforum September 2010 page 271

"If modernism can still be called a period style like, say, Rococo or Victorianism, it is paradoxically inspired by the attempt to avoid all references to the past. For example, minimalism in fashion is concise, logical, practical: reduced to the elementary . But modernity is also a literal will to leave the ground, a will that materialized in new York as it did in the greta medieval cathedrals. Think of Frank Gehry in Bilbao, where he created a museum inthe hiky elastic shape of glittering fish Or Herzog & de Meuron's new new VitraHaus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which heaps one traditional house structure on another like a playing giant. Think of Philippe Petit, the tightrope artist, who walked the air between the two towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. In this sense, style also turns on emotions and reminds us of our playful nature. There is always this element of chance in my work, of informed improvisation.

When I started as a designer, women's fashion was in the Middle ages. The only trousers you could get had a side zipper, and the shapes bore no relation to the female body. The only way to design was to break away from tradition, to start something completely new - even if that was simply looking for a fabric with the proper consistency to turn a dress into an equivalent of the male suit. That is why I felt an affinity with the Conceptualists.

If you strive for purity, as I do, you listen to the material and let yourself be guided by possibilities that present themselves. I don't project my ideas; I let them arrive through structure, through the properties of the fabric. At the same time, patterns are extremely personal for a designer. They are a mirror: Varied and developed over the years, they contain a life of experience and choices. They reflect not only yourself but your relation to a given moment in time, the way you receive and assess the present. Every collection is a snapshot of a specific moment, with all its cultural and personal implications. When I returned to fashion in 2003 after an interlude of two years, my mood was very light, and that was reflected in my next collection, which was quite romantic.

Indeed, modernity need not be minimal. In fashion, there shouldn't be a ban on decoration and pattern. It all depends on the solution. If you don't plaster a piece of clothing with a print but use the print as an element in the overall conception of an individual object, you communicate a conceptual position. (This is in contrast to much of high street fashion, where there has been a tendency to heap decorations on clothes in order to signal that a low price has nothing to do with privation.) When I used an Agnes Martin-derived print at Jil Sander, I was dealing with a very strong visual element, and I took great care to find the right proportion in relation to all the other elements involved.

Structure is a function of material, and material is closely linked to color. It took weeks to work out the color scheme of the +J fall collection for Uniqlo. I paid a lot of attention to the play of proportions, to the interaction of form and movement, to the surprises of subtle color combinations. In a way, I am taking the idea of decoration to a different level: I want each piece to be a possible decoration for the other, without the hierarchy of base and superstructure. I want +J to be a three-dimensional puzzle that offers as many modes of individual combination as possible.

I am not against tradition; I like the idea of salvaging the strengths of the past by way of their complete transformation. A couple of years ago, when I visited Spain, a flamenco performance left a lasting impression. It inspired me to use frills, but nobody guessed that flamenco was the source. In other words: Opulence need not be heavy. It can also result from a strong energy released in the material.