Purple Magazine
— The Cosmos Issue #32

an interview with lucie and luke meier

LUCIE AND LUKE MEIER

interview and portrait by OLIVIER ZAHM
jil sander f/w 19/20
photography by NIGEL SHAFRAN

from pure conceptual design to environmental consciousness, jil sander is setting a new standard for minimalism under the creative direction of a like-minded married couple

OLIVIER ZAHM — Luke, you grew up in Vancouver. It’s a very green city, right?
LUKE MEIER — Yes, until I was 17. Nature’s very present. I grew up on the Pacific, where there are mountains that go right into the water. It’s quite beautiful.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And Lucie, you were born in Switzerland?
LUCIE MEIER — Yes, in Zermatt, surrounded by mountains. Maybe when you grow up in a particular environment, you don’t really recognize the effect it has on you — especially nature. But when you leave it, you know you’re missing out on the force of nature.

OLIVIER ZAHM — After you finish a work session and go back there, are you shocked at how beautiful it is?
LUCIE MEIER — Yeah.
LUKE MEIER — It’s because you’re more aware of it, like Lucie said. That’s like anybody, though. If you grow up in Manhattan and leave for a while and then come back, you appreciate certain aspects.
LUCIE MEIER — Growing up and getting older, nature becomes so much more important to life. It gives you energy, and it’s a place where you can come back to yourself and stop everything.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you look to nature for your creative process?
LUKE MEIER — Yes, mostly in fabrics and materials. At Jil Sander, the core of what we do is developing things and going deep into the actual fabric, and no matter how hard you look, you always come back to the fact that natural things are the best.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you concerned about the impact of textile production?
LUCIE MEIER — Absolutely. It’s not just the fabrics — it’s the packaging, the way things arrive in the stores, a huge variety of processes. We’ve really pushed for that consciousness.  

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s complex. It adds a lot of additional work to the creative process.
LUCIE MEIER — Yes, but we challenge every department. The leather, the fabrics, packaging, and production.
LUKE MEIER — It’s not really elective anymore. It’s not a decision — you should have to do that.
LUCIE MEIER — We feel like it’s our responsibility.  

OLIVIER ZAHM — Fashion’s one of the biggest sources of pollution for our planet. We think we’re all about beauty, luxury, and lifestyle, but we’re discovering that we’re actually responsible for the opposite. When did you realize that?
LUCIE MEIER — It’s become more and more present in our daily lives — the environment and all the issues that we’re facing.
LUKE MEIER — I also give credit to the West Coast mentality. In Vancouver, people were always really active about it. Even when I was in early high school 25 years ago, you had ideas of, “What happens to the forests and the fish population?” Recycling has been there for years and years. The more East you move, the less conscious it was for a long time. Now it’s front-page news. You look at The New York Times, and it’s one of the first things you see. That this awareness is there is a good thing.

OLIVIER ZAHM — This consciousness is really aligned with Jil Sander’s aesthetic, right? The purity, the simplicity. Do you think the fashion industry could have a leading role in this new environmental movement?
LUKE MEIER — I think it can — like any other industry that’s on a scale that big. Fashion and luxury should be aligned with the whole industry, not just one brand.
LUCIE MEIER — It’s part of our responsibilities. If you’re in a position to make decisions, you have to do something. You can have an impact.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It doesn’t cast a shadow over the glamour side of fashion — the eccentricity or freedom?
LUKE MEIER — I don’t think so. If you push really hard and try to make things in a correct way, it shouldn’t be disposable. Even our aesthetics: the idea isn’t that we make a season and then erase it, and it’s irrelevant, and we start something new. Our work is a progression of a point of view. Of course, there are going to be things that feel more right at one moment or another. But they are not ideas designed to be obsolete. That’s where the material becomes important, and the idea of the design — so that it’s not this concept of “disposable.” Because that’s the problem: the idea of disposable.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re raising a major contradiction because fashion is based on permanent change and newness.
LUKE MEIER — That’s true. However, while our role is to give things a fresh aspect, the approach of making and the level of the quality, the uncompromising materials or construction — that has to stay consistent. Inherently you want people to continue to buy things, but they should value them more and not dispose of things so quickly.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes. The excitement, the pleasure, the superficiality of fashion are based on this impulse. Let’s look different this season.
LUCIE MEIER — But we want these pieces to get better with time and let them become a part of you and your wardrobe. People have this connection to the garments we make. They don’t think, “Okay, next season, whole new wardrobe makeover.” We want people to hold on to these pieces and pass them along.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, an environmental awareness in fashion is not anti-fashion?
LUKE MEIER — I don’t think so. What matters is the approach and process to things.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Your aesthetic is very pure, sensitive, and delicate.
LUKE MEIER — Yes, and maybe it’s easy to understand that approach. However, everything changes when you look at things that are very decorative and glamorous, and you think that those things can also be made in the right way with a more conscious approach. Then maybe everything really changes.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You seem quite positive that things can change in that sense for you?
LUCIE MEIER — I don’t think we have the option.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re very concerned about introducing emotion in clothing, right? What kind of emotions do you want people to feel?
LUCIE MEIER — It’s important that what we do can touch people. The world doesn’t need more clothes — that’s not the goal. But it’s important for people to have a connection to the garments. My mother was a big Jil Sander fan when I was growing up. It was very special to her when she could buy a new piece. She felt strong and beautiful wearing them. I saw the impact of the clothes on her and how she would treasure them. To me, Jil Sander has always been very special because I grew up with it. It was the only brand she cared about.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Really?
LUCIE MEIER — Yes. She had a sensibility. That’s why I got interested in fashion.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It was seeing that emotion in your mother.
LUCIE MEIER — It was very important for me to recreate that and give it to other people because I want people to have a connection to their clothes.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s the most difficult challenge — to create an emotion.
LUKE MEIER — With an inanimate object. Because it’s not art, performance, or music. It’s a static object.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And you see a lot of clothes that are just stuff. I got my first emotion for clothes from Martin Margiela, when I was 28 or 29. And this is why I got involved in fashion. Martin was able to give you a real emotion, and that was totally new for me.
LUKE MEIER — Maybe it’s more analytical at the beginning than it is with decoration or costume. It gets away from the extravagance idea.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You approach fashion as a language when you say “analytical.”
LUKE MEIER — I was always more interested in fashion just because it was a reflection of the things I thought were interesting. Any kind of subculture comes first: ideas and expression, and then the fashion follows. You hear a band, and there’s a certain uniform or look that comes out of that — dressing is often a derivation of something.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Exactly, fashion is not first.
LUKE MEIER — It’s a reflection, a vehicle of expression, but a passive one because you just put it on and walk outside and don’t force it on somebody. But you’re there, and they can look and try to understand. It’s like all these little signals or codes. I always found that fascinating because it was participating in culture without it being the source, and it was always interesting to understand that relationship.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I’ve never thought of it that way. Fashion is more the vehicle for culture and not the source of it — just a medium for certain lifestyles or interests.
LUKE MEIER — Yeah, a point of view. Because if you feel a certain way, you put something on and you can present your views on the outside. But you have to feel a certain way first, and the outer presentation follows. That was always interesting.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You don’t start from just your own obsession or aesthetic as a designer. You see fashion as something that connects everything.
LUKE MEIER — Of course there is a personal view or goal, but you have to be motivated by something at the beginning. You’re fed by other things and then say, “This feels like the right direction.” You don’t just set off in a direction first.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, if we extend that connection, fashion can be cosmic. It can connect us to something we don’t know, but that we’re a part of.
LUKE MEIER — Absolutely.

OLIVIER ZAHM — There’s something in Jil Sander that’s a connection with the idea of the future. How do you see the future? Because Jil Sander’s not a brand that has roots in the past. There isn’t even an archive.
LUCIE MEIER — Yeah, we don’t have one.
LUKE MEIER — Always progress — there’s a positivity in that, actually, because it’s kind of eternal hope, no? Without being nihilistic, without thinking the future means death and destruction, and everything is over. If you think we can improve it, it turns into something quite positive, actually. Even nostalgia can be quite depressing because there’s this tendency to look back and think everything was better. Was it really that much better? Or do you start to over-embellish the good things and forget the bad? For us, the best thing to do is look forward in a positive way.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You are really optimistic and open to the future.
LUCIE MEIER — We have to be. It’s in our hands to make it positive.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And also to speak to a younger generation about their future.
LUKE MEIER — Absolutely, and it’s not an easy one for them to deal with right now, but you should never underestimate the cleverness and intelligence of young people.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Because you started with Supreme and worked for young people, basically.
LUKE MEIER — Yeah, when I was 23. Even if Supreme was for a younger demographic, it always had an intelligent and informed point of view, and there was always an older, sophisticated crowd that paid attention. There’s always a clever idea there.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The brand never took the youth as being immature — it respected them.
LUKE MEIER — Absolutely. Because most of them know that already. If you don’t think they know, they do. They know all the problems they have to deal with.

END

Lucie and Luke Meier, creative directors – Heiko Keinath, Art Director – Leon Dame and Asta Stensson, models

all clothes by Jil Sander F/W 19/20

[Table of contents]

The Cosmos Issue #32

Table of contents

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