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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Sales at Sander have risen roughly 20 percent, to $149.2 million last year, from $125.6 million in 1999, converted from the euro at current exchange. Prada Group has opened flagships in London, New York and Tokyo and invested heavily in advertising the brand. As reported, the company’s net loss swelled to $28.3 million last year from $11.5 million in 2001, related to higher fixed costs in opening the London and New York flagships.

Retailers said the label continues to sell, and allowed that some Jil Sander customers are not aware that the designer herself has left.

"It’s still the best pair of pants a woman can buy," said one retailer. "But the collection has not evolved. I literally have been really sad since she’s been gone. I would be jubilant if she came back."

Sander’s fashions are quiet and in the minimalist vein, but her precision cuts and fabric research have kept the fashion cognoscenti rapt. One retailer said her designs are deceptively simple, but perfect: "It’s like when you get a great haircut and you don’t exactly know why."

Louis Boston, one of the first American specialty stores to sell Sander, dropped the line when Sander left. Owner Debra Greenberg said she would cheer a Sander return.

"There’s nobody who concerned herself with the product the way Jil did," Greenberg said. "She works first and foremost with fabric and make, and then with fit. She studied fit to the point where anybody who put on Jil Sander would be so pleased with the fit that the expense of the garment became irrelevant. Also, the styling was always something that was fresh and subtle, beautiful and timeless in a modern way."

Greenberg said Sander’s exit left "a big hole that we’ve never replaced. She’s from a different generation of people who were really concerned about clothing. I think that’s why young people like vintage clothing today. Yes, they like that it’s one of a kind, but I think it’s also because of how well it is made."

Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said his Jil Sander business is "healthy" and growing, but it would be a plus if she came back. "It would be wonderfully positive," he said. "There hasn’t been one designer that’s filled her shoes and we would welcome her back with open arms. She had a unique design approach and an understanding of a modern woman’s needs."
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