Sonia Rykiel died on August 25, 2016 in Paris. She was 86 years old. Three years later, the brand bearing the designer’s name disappeared from the market. It has closed all of its stores. Trademark owner — First Heritage Brands – declared bankruptcy in France, and later withdrew from the US market.
The media speculated about the mismanagement of the company, even though around 200 million euros were invested in its revival over seven years. According to sources (including French daily Le Monde), the Sonia Rykiel brand incurred a loss of 30 million euros at the end of 2018 and had a turnover of 35 million euros.
The first jacket for a pregnant woman
The history of the Sonia Rykiel brand is a series of successive successes and difficult moments. The start was amazing, and the strong entry into the fashion market came as a surprise even to the designer herself. In interviews, she likes to say that almost every day she expects everything to end suddenly. “People will realize that I can’t do anything,” she said in a statement reported by Elle. During her childhood and teenage years, she had little interest in clothing or style. She didn’t get a great education and didn’t plan on working as a fashion dictator. Life itself was the source of inspiration.
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Sonia Fliess was born into a family of French intellectuals from Russia and Romania. As a teenager, she worked in a clothing store, where it was her duty to decorate windows. In 1953 she married Sam Rickel, owner of a small clothing store. Thanks to her husband’s profession, she was able to realize her first projects. And these are out of necessity. When Sonia became pregnant with her second child, she felt uncomfortable in her clothes. So she invented them herself. She sews a simple maternity dress and later notices a bag full of sweaters at her husband’s supplier. So she took one of them and made her way. What was later called the “poor boy” jacket was created—it was tight-fitting, long-sleeved, and looked unlike anything street-wearing at the time. This is how Sonia Rykiel’s “knit” career began.
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Audrey Hepburn bought 14 copies
The colorful striped jackets instantly created a sensation, which, among other things, contributed to Elle’s cover photo from 1963. Teenage pop star Françoise Hardy was photographed wearing a red and pink striped Rykiel turtleneck.
The designer primarily focused on comfort, adapting the collections to the lifestyle of potential clients. Even her haute couture shows were not outlandish shows, offering crazy visions of the designer, but rather promoting fashion suitable for everyday wear.
The brand’s favorite pattern was stripes: colorful and eye-catching. Even the biggest stars loved the jackets. Apparently, Audrey Hepburn bought as many as 14 copies during one visit, each in a different colour. Brigitte Bardot has also been seen and photographed in Rykiel’s outfit.
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In 1968, Sonia Rykiel opened her first store. It turns out that her style of clothing is quite consistent with the turn of the sixties and seventies, when an atmosphere of sexual freedom and a widely understood cult of freedom dominated Paris.. The designer was said to have “liberated women” by giving them permission to wear knitted fabrics instead of the short, tight-fitting dresses in vogue at the time.
At the end of the sixties, Sonia Rykiel opened her own wing prestigious Galeries Lafayette, which to this day is the most important gallery in the world.
The beginning of the end for a fashion empire
In 2012, according to Le Monde, the fashion house Sonia Rykiel was at the peak of its popularity. €90 million turnover, 365 employees, 65 stores and 80 booths in 1,700 multi-brand stores in more than 30 countries. With a desire to expand the brand’s global reach, the Rykiel family has already started looking for an investor. At first, to get a minority stake, it failed. In 2012, the majority stake in the Sonia Rykiel brand was purchased by First Heritage Brands (part of Fung Brands Limited) based in Hong Kong. Only 20 percent remained in the hands of the Rykiel family. Involved.
Problems and symptoms of impending failure appeared in 2014. At that time, some of the fashion empire’s employees were laid off. The terrorist attacks in Paris in 2016 did not improve the situation. Fewer tourists came to France, so the shops had fewer customers. The brand value has gradually decreased. The departure of Artistic Director and Principal Designer Julie de Libran was a huge blow. The fashion world was surprised by the absence of Sonia Rykiel’s collection from Paris Fashion Week 2018 – and it was the beginning of the end.
In April 2019, First Heritage Brands declared the brand bankrupt. Despite attempts to sell the company, no buyer was found. As for the only bidder who did not withdraw his offer, related to the real estate trade, he offered only 200 thousand. euros and jobs for 39 people, he was refused.
Sonia Rykiel died on August 25, 2016 at her home in Paris, before the company collapsed. The cause was post-Parkinson’s complications, which the designer had suffered from for many years. Only in 2012 did she admit that she was struggling with this. She had previously hidden her trembling hands and other symptoms, but finally decided to write about her diagnosis in her autobiography. She worked until the end, although her daughter Natalie took over the reins of the company for a time.
“She not only invented a style, but she also invented behaviour, a way of living and being,” said then-French President François Hollande after her death, while Jean-Marc Loubert, President and CEO of First Heritage Brands, asserted that Sonia Rykiel “helped women and society evolve.” “.
According to viva.pl, in 2020 the rights to the Sonia Rykiel brand and its archives were bought by brothers Eric and Michael Dayan, owners of the Showroomprive online store.
Source: fashionnetwork.com, elle.pl, vogue.pl, Lemonde.fr
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