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JIL SANDER Noted as one of the major labels who helped popularize the minimalist aesthetic of the nineties, Jil Sander stands for luxe purity. The German designer launched her namesake women’s ready-to-wear line in 1973 on the Milan runway, after designing collections for her own boutique in Hamburg for five years. The austere suits and coats, embellishment-free cashmere knits, and monochrome silk dresses in whites, browns, and blacks earned a cult following among critics and buyers alike, and led to a $200 million empire that came to include menswear, accessories, and multiple perfumes. Buyers from prestigious department stores like Barneys New York have said it’s one of the labels that their clients most consistently seek. In 1999, Prada Group acquired 75 percent of the label, which led to Sander’s departure shortly thereafter. Milan Vukmirovic, who had prior stints at Colette and Gucci, was brought in but failed to uphold the streamlined cleanliness that Jil Sander executed. In 2003, Prada asked Sander back. With much anticipation from the public and press, the designer showcased her signature staple pieces, this time with strokes of color (sherbet-hued dresses, white jackets painted with blue streaks) and flourish (fringed separates, sequined numbers), before officially stepping down four seasons later. Following an interim period, Raf Simons was brought in as the new creative director in 2005. The Belgian menswear designer has delivered, maintaining the label’s heritage and making it his own with appliquéd shorts, electric red, orange, and blue outerwear, and blousy, one-button coats. His conceptual, sculptural suits for the Jil Sander menswear line have been embraced as well. In 2008, the label was bought by Tokyo-based apparel group Onward Holdings Co, keeping Simons at the helm. In 2011, the label launched Jil Sander Navy, a lower-priced diffusion line.