Lars Nilsson

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For the Sami shaman, see Lars Nilsson (shaman). For the Swedish footballer, see Lasse Nilsson.
Lars Nilsson
Born 1966
Stockholm, Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Education Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne
Occupation Fashion designer
Awards Vanity Fair Best Dressed 2001, Guldknappen 2006, Graphis Gold Award (Best Advertisement Campaign) 2011
Labels Christian Lacroix, Nina Ricci, Bill Blass, Mr. Nils

Lars Nilsson (born 1966 in Stockholm, Sweden) is a fashion designer[1] who has worked with several major fashion houses, including Christian Dior, Bill Blass,[2] Nina Ricci,[3] Gianfranco Ferré, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse tam.tam, and an own menswear line Mr. Nils.


Lars Nilsson graduated from both Virginska Skolan in Sweden and Paris’ Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. Following fashion school he did an apprenticeship at the tailoring atelier of Chanel haute couture before joining the fashion house Christian Lacroix in a senior design role. From 1997 to 1999 he worked at Dior Couture as couture collection coordinator. After that he moved to New York to become the Design Director for the Polo Ralph Lauren women’s wear collection. From 2000 to 2003 he was Creative Director of Bill Blass Collection, designing both women’s and menswear.[5] In 2003, he returned to Paris to become Creative Director - and also creative collaborator for perfume and cosmetics - at Nina Ricci until 2006[6], and was appointed as Creative Director of Gianfranco Ferré in September 2007.[7] In September 2009 he started a menswear label, Mr. Nils.[9] For most of 2014 he acted as consultant Artistic Director for the Paris-based Fast Retailing women's wear brands Comptoir des Cotonniers and Princesse tam.tam. [4]

Christian Lacroix[edit]

Nilsson’s first big job upon graduation was at the Christian Lacroix, where he would spend a total of nine years in the role of both Mr. Lacroix’s direct personal collaborator and senior haute couture designer. During some of the most exciting years of the house’s existence [having divested itself of its couturier in 2009, the house continues as a licensed operation] Nilsson worked on extraordinary couture creations, some of which have been iconic, most notably thanks to the work of photographer Irving Penn. He formed close, enduring links with such lionized couture figures as François Lesage (embroidery) and Mr. Pearl (corsetry). He shepherded all of Mr. Lacroix’s literary output at the time, including the books The Diary of a Collection and Pieces of a Pattern, was involved in the organization and execution of exhibitions devoted to the couturier’s work, and worked directly with him on Mr. Lacroix’s numerous projects for the theatrical and operatic stage.

Christian Dior[edit]

From 1997 to 1999 he worked with the newly arrived John Galliano at Dior Couture as coordinator of both the haute couture studio and the fur collections[13]. In the early seasons of Mr. Galliano’s tenure at the famous Paris fashion house, Nilsson was there to help bring the British designer’s wild flights of creative fancy to life, interpreting endless outpourings of inspiration and references into actual items of clothing that were no less fantastical or awe-inspiring. Nilsson’s output in this period included such landmark couture moments as the fabled Pocahontas-meets-Tudor-England-meets-Moroccan-souk show with models arriving on a real-life steam train at the Gare d’Austerlitz, and the gloriously decadent show inspired by Marchesa Casati at the Palais Garnier opera house.

Bill Blass[edit]

At the age of 34 years, following a stint at Ralph Lauren as women’s wear design director, he was appointed the direct successor of Bill Blass, founder of the eponymous American fashion house. Garnering great press and retail attention, Nilsson subtly repositioned the house as a go-to brand for a new generation of clients, with Vogue’s Anna Wintour paying him the ultimate compliment by wearing one of his dresses to the Vogue Fashion Awards in October 2001[15].During his tenure New York Magazine named him Designer Of The Year 2001. In the same year he was elected to the International Best-Dressed List by Eleanor Lambert and Vanity Fair.[16]

Nina Ricci[edit]

Returning to Paris in 2003, and directly across Avenue Montaigne from Dior, Nilsson took up the reins as Creative Director at the Puig-owned house of Nina Ricci. While his role would also involve providing creative input on the beauty side of the business, his primary task was the injection of a dose of excitement, youth and energy into the somewhat dormant fashion and accessories lines. Placing the focus on the house’s inherent feminine image, he created fashion that was light, lovely and luxurious, focusing on developing identifiable color stories, prints, and a general mood and silhouette that would be instantly recognizable as Nina Ricci. In line with the brand’s feminine allure, he ramped up the lingerie line, enlisting the involvement of the corsetier Mr. Pearl on innovative collaborations [27]. In 2004 he designed the house's first-ever resort collection[21] and, having learned the incomparable role played by presence on the social scene from his time in Manhattan, set about increasing brand visibility through hosting a bevy of international runway shows[22], trunk shows[23] and black-tie events[24][25][26]. The house’s reach stretched far beyond Avenue Montaigne, dressing a new generation of socialites in New York, and appearing regularly on Hollywood red carpets worn by actresses including Renée Zellwager and Kate Beckinsale. In 2006 he was awarded Sweden’s highest fashion honor, the Guldknappen (Swedish for ‘golden button’).[28]

Gianfranco Ferré[edit]

Following the founder’s sudden death in June 2007, Lars Nilsson was named Creative Director of Gianfranco Ferré in late September 2007. Based in Milan, he was in charge of women and men’s clothing and accessories for main and associated lines and licenses[29]. Attempting to inject a fresh, modern and international attitude into a house weighed down by an image both operatic (mainline) and trashy (secondary) and a distribution skewed primarily to the Russian and Eastern European markets, he was responsible for bringing a slew of influential external collaborators on board. On his instruction dark interiors were painted bright, and light literally flooded in when the coverings were removed from a massive glass ceiling. Reimagining the traditional manner in which the house showed its collections, he invited set designer extraordinaire Michael Howells to create a striking modernist set in the in-house show space for the men’s collection in January 2008. In spite of great support from international (especially US) press and retailers, clashes with a management generally uninterested in investing in a new image at the expense of blingy ruble income resulted in his shock dismissal from the house two weeks before he was due to show his debut women’s wear collection in February 2008. A large article in US Vogue, which bowed during the same period, profiled Nilsson and three other talented designers taking over the reins of established houses. The unambiguously cautious tone of the article proved prescient: by years’ end all four had been let go.

Mr. Nils[edit]

The Mr. Nils collection came about as the result of a short-lived partnership with an Italian manufacturer of tailored menswear. Working with the backer’s own Tuscan production facility, and a network of high-end knitwear, outwear, jersey, shoes and accessories workshops in Italy, an initial small capsule expanded into a fully-fledged first collection. Nilsson received the phenomenal honor of being invited to show this debut collection by the Pitti Uomo[32] trade fair in Florence as a special guest. Following a nighttime presentation at Florence’s Museo Marino Marini and sales and press appointments in Milan, the brand was seen on a number of celebrities including actor Ewan McGregor[33]. Even with great critical acclaim, expansive press coverage and orders from some extremely important retailers, the backer’s initial enthusiasm stretched further than its long-term investment plan in an uncertain global economy and the nascent project ground to a halt.


  1. ^ Björling, Sanna (August 18, 2006). "Guldknappen till Lars Nilsson". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Lars Nilsson's Blass Act". The Washington Post. February 22, 2002. Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  3. ^ "From Lars Nilsson, a deep blue sea". International Herald Tribune. October 10, 2005. Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  4. ^ CFDA. "CFDA Member Profile". Retrieved November 30, 2011.