Amid the glitzy looks of the ’70s and the chaotic punk of the ’80s, German-born Jill Sander’s designs stood out for their austerity. Her precisely cut pants and monochrome jackets — grey, beige, black and white — earned her a cult-like following among women who loved understated elegance without a lot of hassle. The fact that her pieces were easy to coordinate led her to develop the “onion-look,” now known simply as layering. After selling a majority of her eponymous label to Prada in 1999, she stepped down just six months later when Prada’s chief executive suggested she use cheaper fabrics and bring her notoriously slim fits in line with international standards. For a designer committed to quality, selling a stake in her company proved far easier than selling out. But in February 2012, Sander announced she’d return to head up design at her company upon creative director Raf Simons’ departure.
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