Sander and Bertelli Split Again

Jil Sander’s on-again, off-again role at the company that bears her name is off again. The designer has departed the Prada-owned firm.

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Photo By WWD Staff

MILAN — It’s déjà vu all over again at Jil Sander: Prada Group surprised the fashion world Tuesday by revealing that Sander has once again left the company that bears her name.

Disclosure of Sander’s departure came in the form of a brief technical filing through the German stock exchange, where shares of the Jil Sander company are still listed. “Jil Sander AG, the Hamburg fashion company, and designer Jil Sander announced that they have amicably agreed to terminate their cooperation,” the statement said.

The collection will be designed by an in-house design team “for right now,” a Prada Group spokesman said.

It marks the second time in four years that Sander has left, and once again it appears to result from insurmountable clashes between her and Prada chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli.

The first time Sander departed the company she founded more than 30 years ago was in 2000, just months after selling it to Prada. Bertelli famously quipped in response: “A brand that’s as strong as Jil Sander doesn’t need to rely on the name of a designer. It’s not the name that counts, but the quality of the product.” A few months later, he brought in Milan Vukmirovic as creative director and immediately after the brand’s image began to disintegrate amid hostile reviews.

Given the fashion community’s lukewarm reception of Vukmirovic, Bertelli’s choice to revisit a Jil Sander without Sander and a team approach appears even bolder.

“Unless he has some rabbit in his brilliant hat, Bertelli has learned that filling [the shoes] of Jil Sander is a gargantuan task,” said one source.

The Prada spokesman explained late Tuesday that Sander’s contract was not renewed. When Sander returned last year, she inked a six-year deal with Prada. That agreement called for early contract renegotiations that have since failed, according to the spokesman.

“This [nonrenewal] was a result of differing opinions on the future financial strategic plans and operational management of the Jil Sander group,” he said. “It had nothing to do with creativity.” The spokesman was unable to clarify whether Sander has a noncompete clause as part of her exit package.
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