PARIS — Sonia Rykiel has a new managing director, a new creative director and revved-up ambitions to build its business abroad, particularly in the U.S.
François Steiner, 44, former president of Kenzo, has been appointed the house's new managing director, while Gabrielle Greiss, 34, was promoted to creative director of the first fashion line. Greiss has worked in the studio with house founder Sonia Rykiel for the last two years.
Steiner, who has also held management jobs at Louis Vuitton and Thomas Pink, reports to Nathalie Rykiel, Sonia Rykiel's daughter the house's president and artistic director. He started this fall, but it is only now that his position has been made official.
"We want to build the future," said Nathalie Rykiel.
The appointments come as Rykiel prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.
In January, the house will inaugurate the festivities by unveiling a refurbished and expanded flagship boutique on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, in the heart of the Left Bank shopping district.
Nathalie Rykiel said the company would introduce a special capsule collection of "collectable" pieces, as well as stage a blowout party on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in May. The fete is scheduled for May 25, which will coincide with Sonia Rykiel's 78th birthday. "We wanted to do something atypical — very Rykiel."
Meantime, next October, a museum retrospective of Rykiel's four decades of style is planned for the fashion museum in the Louvre here. "It will be the first time we've done a museum show in France," said Nathalie Rykiel, who added a documentary film about the house as well as a literary essay on her mother's style are also in the works.
"We want to show our individuality," she explained. "We like to do things our own quirky way. We are one of the only remaining family-owned fashion businesses in France. We are 100 percent auto-financed and we are growing. Our story is unique."
Sources estimate Rykiel had sales of about 100 million euros, or $147 million at current exchange, last year with an increase in revenues of about 10 percent. The house operates 29 wholly owned boutiques and counts 26 franchised stores."Our main priority is to grow our business in the United States," said Nathalie Rykiel. Bloomingdale's and Intermix are among the stores that carry the line in the U.S. It is also sold in Rykiel boutiques in Manhattan and Boston.
"We fell asleep in America," admitted Rykiel. "It's time for us to wake up."
Nathalie Rykiel said Steiner is crafting a coherent strategy for Rykiel in America. She said her daughter, Lola, 22, a trained classical dancer, was assuming an ambassador role for the brand in New York, where she lives.
The changes were prompted after Nathalie Rykiel last year divorced her husband, Simon Burstein, who had doubled as house president. (Burstein's family runs the Browns fashion stores in London.)
Greiss, who trained at Central Saint Martins in London, is well-known in fashion circles here, having worked with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Martine Sitbon and Anna Molinari before joining Rykiel. Though her touch has been evident since she arrived two years ago, she now is expected to amplify her influence over Rykiel's cheeky Left Bank style even more.
Nathalie Rykiel said Greiss would take a bow on the podium — alongside her and her mother — after the upcoming fashion show in Paris.
But she was quick to emphasize her mother is not passing the baton. "Sonia comes to work every morning," she said. "She is not retiring."
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