Is Jil Going Home Again? Bertelli Said to Be in a Wooing Mood

MILAN — As fashion rumors go, it’s practically a classic.But three years after Jil Sander’s messy divorce from Prada Group,...

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MILAN — As fashion rumors go, it’s practically a classic.

But three years after Jil Sander’s messy divorce from Prada Group, sources say the designer is in talks to return to her namesake company.

Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli is said once again to be eager to woo her back into the fold, while sources describe Sander as rested and raring to reclaim her name and reputation in the fashion firmament. The progress of the most recent round of talks could not be learned, but one source pegged the likelihood of a deal at 70 percent — with creative autonomy being the linchpin issue.

According to sources familiar with the discussions, Sander’s list of demands also includes the dismissal of two key business managers at the company and the right to assemble her own creative teams.

Sander had already left for her Easter holiday and could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, sources close to the designer confirm that the two parties have been talking. But a Prada spokesman said, "There are no new developments in the relationship between Jil Sander and the Prada Group."

Although there have been rumors of on-and-off talks between Bertelli and Sander since she exited the company, it appears this time around Prada is under increasing pressure to cut a deal with the designer. Sources in Italy say the group is feeling the heat from Deutsche Bank — one of Prada’s biggest lenders — to reduce its debt load by selling some of its assets. "The bank is pressuring Prada to sell Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and/or Azzedine Alaïa," said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In an interview in WWDThe Magazine this month, Helmut Lang denied that Prada had its stake in his label on the block.

"[The rumor] does not come from anywhere," he said. "It’s like this homemade thing from [WWD]."

Sander exited in acrimonious fashion as chairwoman and chief designer in January 2000, just a few months after selling her company to Prada. She was succeeded by Milan Vukmirovic, a former buyer at the hip Paris boutique, Colette, whose collections have kept sales humming, even if the brand image has shifted and reviews have been less than stellar.
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