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In the religion of fashion, the worship of minimalism happens at the church of Jil Sander. There, austerity is transformed into power, and strength is found in simplicity.
Rodolfo Paglialunga, the fashion house’s creative director since 2014, has long been a member of the spartan flock, growing up in fashion in the nineties, a time he describes as having been the best for minimalism. After leading design roles at Vionnet and Prada, Paglialunga is working to attract an even younger, smarter, cooler crowd to the sophisticated school of Jil Sander. Whitewall caught up with him after the debut of his latest menswear collection, which proved strict with an underground edge.
WHITEWALL: The recent show of menswear for Spring/Summer 2017 focused on a subdued and calm look, with natural fabrics, clean cuts, and shapes with ease. Why did you want to create a modular and light wardrobe for the Jil Sander man?
RODOLFO PAGLIALUNGA: I wanted to go back to the house founding principles, but with a twist. Design, clean cuts, and fabrics were definitely the only protagonists. I wanted to create a light feeling and construction of classic garments, reassemble a modern wardrobe for next summer with a strong casual feel yet classically constructed. I also wanted to show and to display a masculine physicality and a dynamic body consciousness.
WW: For the Jil Sander men’s line you’ve said that you want it to be smarter, younger, cooler. How do you see that translating in color, fabric, and volume in future collections?
RP: For the future I think about searching for a new approach to construct the Jil Sander silhouette, rethinking any conventional way of operating. Simply new proportions for the Jil Sander line. With regard to the colors, they have been always an important trademark for Jil Sander. Recently, I’ve gravitated toward a very unremitted color palette—I like to play with neutrals.
WW: The women’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection had a bit of an edge, with sharp dresses in black, strong shoulders, asymmetrical hems, and a bit of shimmer in some metallic looks. What took you in that direction?
RP: I mainly wanted to work on proportions and new combinations of materials. Proportions were extreme in this specific collection: strong shoulders, daring volumes, elongated sleeves. The silhouette was decisive and vertical, with an emphasis on artificial surfaces. Leather has a glass hand. Foil is printed onto silks or textured wools. Metal is knitted into dresses.
WW: For that collection, what drew you to materials like leather, printed foil on silk, embroidered piece, and knit metals?
RP: I wanted to use innovative materials that give the garments an always modern and unique touch. We put a lot of energy into the development of new fabrics so that traditional materials get new characteristics, such as cashmere with metallic pigments, particularly in this case.
WW: How would you describe the starting point of a collection for you? Does it always come from a singular source of inspiration, or is it more of an amalgamation?
RP: My main inspirations come from travels. I get inspired by the places I visit and people I meet. I get inspired from friends. It is definitely an amalgamation of inspirations.
WW: There is a purity and strictness to the Jil Sander aesthetic that’s both understated and empowering. How do you want your clothes to transform the wearer?
RP: I mostly translate those values through forms, shapes, and fabrics for both womenswear and menswear. Every Jil Sander collection has very exclusive fabrics, specific developments for colors and materials, high-level treatment and techniques and the highest care for the maximum quality. I’d rather prefer to stage a collection that can be approached in many different individual ways. I think that personality is much more interesting, and I would like to see this as the trend.
WW: How would you describe the contemporary minimalism you are pursuing today at Jil Sander?
RP: I wouldn’t use the word “minimalism” anymore as I don’t think it is the correct expression to describe my approach. Now it’s about focusing on the essential or a word that is almost a synonym for the brand—it is about pureness with a strong focus on subtle details. I create beauty and femininity in my collections that fit to our times.
WW: You’ve described yourself as not a party boy—not going out to red carpet events. What you look at is people during the day at work. Would you say that is for whom you are designing?
RP: I can confirm that I am not a party boy! Also, I normally prefer to be behind the scenes and have my work speak for me. I don’t necessarily design for an understated target, though. If a celebrity admires my work and would like to wear my collections for red carpets or other events, why not?
WW: The audience for ready-to-wear fashion for both men and women now reaches a larger, more international audience. Has that evolution in the world of fashion affected your creative process, or who you are imagining wearing your designs?
RP: I like to create a collection that can be approached by a larger audience in many different individual ways.
WW: Outside of fashion, what are your interests? Are you interested in art, literature, or film?
RP: Of course, I’m very keen on all these fields. I have a particular interest in modern and contemporary art. In my spare time I love to travel, visit museums, and search for the unique piece to take back home.
WW: Does your affinity for minimalism transcend fashion to other aspects of your life?
RP: I’m quite an understated person, therefore at times minimalism also trickles in my personal life. At work and outside, I like to research pureness with a strong focus on subtle details. I love the idea of pureness and a sort of intellectual approach, which can display both a certain joyful and emotional side.
WW: How would you describe your ideal environment for creating?
RP: My ideal work environment is team-oriented—an environment that is centered around working as a team and that allows everyone’s talents to flourish. I definitely like an environment that is empowering and positive.
This article appears in Whitewall‘s fall 2016 Fashion Issue.