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Sonia Rykiel Taps Julie de Libran

Former Louis Vuitton designer is named artistic director at Parisian brand.

PARIS — Julie de Libran, one of Marc Jacobs’ chief design deputies during his tenure at Louis Vuitton, has been named artistic director at Sonia Rykiel.

She is to show her first collection during Paris Fashion Week in September.

De Libran succeeds Geraldo de Conceiçao, a Canadian designer who logged three fashion shows for the Parisian house, which is synonymous with insouciant Left Bank style and striped knitwear. He also had joined Rykiel from Vuitton, where he was a design director — recruited, in fact, by de Libran, who was studio director of women’s ready-to-wear and the front woman for Vuitton’s cruise and pre-fall collections.

She exited Vuitton last March following the arrival of Jacobs’ successor Nicolas Ghesquière, who is to show his second collection, for cruise, in Monte Carlo on Saturday.

Born in Paris, de Libran moved with her family to California at age 8, and her key memories of France include her mother’s Seventies wardrobe of Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo and Rykiel clothes.

“She was such a powerful woman and she created such a style. I liked that she was a woman designing for women,” de Libran said in an interview, lauding the brand’s “happy” personality and its legacy of addressing smart, confident women in the Saint-Germain-des-Près district and beyond.

“She was as important for me as Saint Laurent in the Seventies,” she said. “I’m confident. I just want to make beautiful, desirable clothes. I think there’s a space. There’s also so much to do in shoes and accessories.”

Popular among the fashion press, the stylish de Libran had been touted as a possible successor to Jacobs by some European editors.

She joined Vuitton in 2008 as a design director after a 10-year career at Prada, working beside Miuccia Prada to help establish the Italian firm with celebrity and event dressing. Her résumé also includes stints at Versace, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Gianfranco Ferré.

The abrupt change in creative leadership at Rykiel comes roughly two years after First Heritage Brands, previously known as Fung Brands Ltd., acquired an 80 percent stake in the company, installed new management, revamped the retail network and put the development focus on the second line Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, positioned in the fast-growing contemporary segment. The Rykiel family holds the remaining 20 percent of the house, which was founded in 1968 and today spans ranges for the home and children’s wear.

International development is to now center on the main collection, with de Libran touted as the embodiment of the Rykiel woman.

“We are at a stage where we can accelerate the development of the house,” said Jean-Marc Loubier, chairman at Rykiel and president and chief executive officer of First Heritage Brands, the holding company for Rykiel, Delvaux and Robert Clergerie.

He noted that Greater China and the U.S. are among future expansion vectors for Rykiel, whose principal markets are France and Japan.

Commenting on the appointment, Rykiel ceo Eric Langon said de Libran’s fashion instincts, “natural understanding of the Rykiel universe, spontaneity and team spirit will definitely bring our house to the next level.”