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Sonia Rykiel Rules Brittania

LONDON — Sonia Rykiel feels at home with her new store here, her first in the U.K.<br><br>The designer is more than familiar with the territory. She’s been selling at Browns for years, and her daughter Nathalie is married to Simon...

LONDON — Sonia Rykiel feels at home with her new store here, her first in the U.K.

The designer is more than familiar with the territory. She’s been selling at Browns for years, and her daughter Nathalie is married to Simon Burstein, whose family owns Browns, the designer clothing store on South Molton Street.

“I feel like I know the English by heart,” Rykiel said, sitting, with her stocking-covered feet tucked under her, on a black leather chair in her store.

As for the way the English dress, Rykiel said: “I love the eccentric way they do it, the way they play with clothes. It’s all completely experimental — and I love to do that with my own clothes.”

The store, at 27-29 Brook Street, is less than a block from Browns and near stores owned by L.K. Bennett, Space NK Apothecary, Pringle and Penhaligons. The 2,000-square-foot store spans two floors and has an interior similar to her other units, with fittings made from oak and polished steel, the signature black-and-white polkadot carpet and dark wood floors. Of course, there is an Eiffel Tower in the window, just to remind the British where the designer’s heart really lies.

The new store carries the women’s collection — including the Modern Vintage line, which Rykiel launched in 2000 — children’s wear, accessories and a small selection of men’s wear. Burstein, who is managing director of Sonia Rykiel, said he expects first-year sales to reach between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.

The store caps a yearlong retail rollout. This year, the company has opened two stores in Paris and one in Coral Gables, Fla. Burstein said he’s thinking about future openings in Shanghai and Milan.

So what took Rykiel, who’s been designing for more than 35 years, so long to open a store here? “I never found the right place in the right area. Or it was the right place and it was too expensive,” she said bluntly.

Rykiel said the store will be stocked much like her other stores around the world because her client isn’t tied to one region or lifestyle.

“My kind of woman is more intellectual than bourgeois. She loves life, food, love, men and children. She’s intense and passionate and so are my clothes. If you look on the inside of one of my dresses, you’ll see what I have in my heart — and even the movie, theater or museum that I have in my mind.”

In Florida, Nathalie Rykiel hosted a party celebrating the American launch of the Sonia/Sonia Rykiel collection, the company’s new contemporary line, and of Rykiel’s first mall location and prototype store in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables.

“We’re showing America the sexier side of Sonia Rykiel,” she said. “Miami is the best place to showcase that.”

The 3,000-square-foot boutique, which stands front and center on the garden level of the new Village of Merrick Park shopping mall, is Rykiel’s fourth and largest U.S. store, and is the only American unit to carry Sonia/Sonia Rykiel.

The Sonia/Sonia Rykiel collection features luxe denim casual skirts and jackets, knit dresses, skirts, sweaters and tops, all with a younger, sassier attitude than the more glamorous SR collection.

“Sonia/Sonia is more edgy, not in a trendy sense, but in pushing the limits of good taste,” Nathalie Rykiel said. “My mother always uses the word ‘quirky.’ It’s a more adventurous collection.”