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Jil Sander Made a Minimalist Thriller and We Are Maximally Loving It

Erin Schwartz

Erin Schwartz

Jil Sander's new creative directors Luke and Lucie Meier make a bold start with five short films introducing their SS18 campaign, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders.

Something sinister is afoot in the Jil Sander universe. In a trailer released earlier this week for a series of five short films introducing the SS18 campaign—the first under new creative directors Luke and Lucie Meier—a couple bickers in a vintage paternoster lift (a distinctively German open-compartment elevator); a silhouetted figure washed in magenta light stomps down a hallway, her sweater’s fringe lashing behind her. A brunette transmits a secret message via Tiffany blue paper airplane. A man in full scuba gear emerges from a lake. What lies beneath the lake’s placid surface? And will someone get the poor man a coat?

The trailer is lush and tense, and locates the new season’s clothes within the world of young and glamorous Berliners with skeletons in their closets, right next to their perfectly oversized white Jil Sander shirts. The Meiers tapped German director Wim Wenders, perhaps best known for 1987’s Wings of Desire, for the project—a telling move by the label’s new designers, who come to Jil Sander from Dior (Lucie) and Supreme, and the streetwear label OAMC (Luke). This Spring 2018 campaign is their first, and they face the challenge of translating the brand’s androgynous minimalism to a contemporary audience while honoring its near-mythical history. (Unlike most brands at which new creative directors have taken the reigns from an eponymous designer, Jil Sander is still kicking—and reverence for her work has only grown since she departed the label.)

Wenders is an apt ambassador whose reputation gives the Canadian-born designers a bit of gravity in Sander’s Berliner universe. Wenders was a defining member of New German Cinema, a heterogenous movement spanning the 1960s and '80s known for its visually rich, psychologically charged films addressing modern life and alienation. The trailer even references Wenders’s 1987 Wings of Desire (which was incidentally the basis of the Meg Ryan-Nicolas Cage romance City of Angels; thankfully, the Goo Goo Dolls appeared in neither Wenders’s original film, nor this Jil Sander project). Its neon-washed palette also reminded me of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1981 Lola, a story of municipal corruption and lust in which a cabaret singer-slash-sex worker falls for an urban planner.

If the trailer is a bite-sized homage to New German Cinema, it mixes cinematic suspense-building with the choreography of a streetwear drop: Lucie and Luke Meier are using the clips to build hype for their new collection. And Luke Meier’s streetwear background appears subtly in the collection: next to crisp wool suits in the Jil Sander tradition, there’s a snap-fastened t-shirt layered over a knit hem evoking the fringe of a basketball net.

Questions remain: what secret does the paper airplane note communicate? Will our lovers survive the paternoster elevator, which are widely considered death traps? Will Jil Sander’s blend of German cinema history and streetwear tactics work? Lucie and Luke Meier keep us guessing. Adding to the tension, Wenders ends each segment with “pauses” that freeze the action into a never-ending edge-of-your-seat moment. It’s the anticipation—not the resulting action—that is the emotional point. A clever comment on the fashion cycle from two new designers eager to make a bold mark.