JIL SANDER

Pitti Uomo 97: Jil Sander vs. Sergio Tacchini Or the battle between cultural capital and commercial fashion

Written by Philip Warkander by Sandra Myhrberg

The Santa Maria Novella building complex, next to the train station in Florence, is home to one of the best-known of all Florentine companies, Officina Profumo – Framaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, founded already in 1612 by monks living in the monastery. The apotecharcy was established already in 1221, when monks were asked to take care of the city’s outcasts, and to this day, all products are made by hand. It is a site that tells of centuries of historical events, from the creation of the first alcohol-based perfume (commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici), the monks’ combatting the spread of the Black Death and their subsequent invention of rose water (!).
That Jil Sander would choose a venue as rich as this is hardly surprising. Since married couple Luke and Luice Meier took over as creative directors of the brand in 2017, the brand has been on a very consistent and clear path. The fashion show at Pitti Uomo 97 was no exception to this strategy and can best be summarized as, “old Céline for the new man”, which might deserve a brief explanation: When Phoebe Philo left Céline (a few months after the Meiers took up the design positions at Jil Sander) she left a big gap in the market for the well-informed, educated and affluent client, wanting to dress fashionably but wary of big logotypes and marketing ploys. During Philo’s reign, Céline represented a unique perspective on fashion and was generally considered the epitome of good taste. The team at Jil Sander has been quick in attempting to fill up this space by creating understated, minimalist and sleek clothes, more in line with a classic style statement than a trend-driven fashion look. Today, this market is not only for the aesthetically adept woman but also for the equally style conscious man, more commonly known as “the new man”.
A fashion show is in many ways similar to a symphony. The looks need to presented in a particular order to create harmony, the tonality and composition is dependent on how casting, lighting, music and styling come together to enhance the story of the design. This show was – as expected – well executed and true to the brand values of Jil Sander – black and white looks and every now and then discreet nods to the famous, deconstructed design practice of Helmut Lang. But, at times the design seemed slightly off, and there was something lacking in the presentation.
Is there such a thing as trying to hard when it comes to branding? When does a fashion house risk appearing too obvious in their marketing strategies? If equal effort had been put into the garments as in the selection of the show venue, the show could have been both beautiful and inspiring, but unfortunately, in its current state it wouldn’t receive a higher grade than a solid C.
In comparison, the combination of retrospective installation and collection presentation by Sergio Tacchini, organized in the outskirts of Florence in the magnificent Tepidarium del Roster just a few hours later, was something entirely different. Instead of imitating the work of others or trying hard to find inspiration elsewhere, the brand offered a transparent and clever display of both its history in sportswear and the up-coming collection of AW20. Tacchini celebrated designs of different eras from their archives by simply showcasing where they came from and in what kind of spaces their clothes had normally been used, in this way creating an event that was at the same time fun and engaging but also honest and to the point.
Many of this season’s Pitti Uomo-visitors seemed to prioritize the glamorous Jil Sander runway show and neglect to go see the seemingly more pedestrian brand presentation of Sergio Tacchini. This is somewhat understandable but also regrettable as that evening, it was the commercial and unpretentious Sergio Tacchini who appeared to be the most innovative of the two.

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