G-III Apparel Group Ltd. has signed an agreement to purchase the legendary French fashion brand Sonia Rykiel.
The purchase price was not disclosed.
The brand had been owned by brothers Eric Dayan and Michael Dayan since 2020, entrepreneurs who have built an online private sales platform. The pair won a court-managed bidding process for the brand’s assets, including archives, intellectual property rights, prototypes and the prior collection. The label’s previous owners had struggled to make it profitable despite its heritage and critical approval of collections by the earlier designer, Julie de Libran. The Dayan brothers took over the label just under a year after it had gone into receivership.
Dubbed the “Queen of Knits” by WWD, Sonia Rykiel during her heyday captured the liberated spirit of the French capital’s intellectual Left Bank with lively knits, stripes and sequins that carried broad appeal. Rykiel died in 2016.
G-III plans to accelerate the relaunch of the brand, primarily in Europe, for the fall of 2022, with collections across multiple categories. The transaction is expected to close by the end of October.
G-III’s stock closed Thursday at 29.81, up 2.19 percent.
“We are extremely pleased to purchase the Sonia Rykiel brand, which further enables us to expand into the luxury space,” said Morris Goldfarb, G-III’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We believe there is significant opportunity to unlock the untapped potential of this brand as we look to accelerate our global reach. We will leverage the existing executive management team and infrastructure based in Europe, as wells G-III’s supply chain expertise to scale and grow the Sonia Rykiell business across apparel, accessories and numerous other lifestyle categories.”
In a statement, the Dayans said, “We are proud to have been a part of this brand which a has a deep French heritage and to be the drivers behind its relaunch. We are thrilled to have found G-III, a true apparel and accessory powerhouse with a strong portfolio of globally recognized brands, as the new owners and stewards of the Sonia Rykiel brand. With G-III’s dominance in a diversified range of lifestyle categories, along with its well-established and broad range of retail partners, we see a bright future the growth of the Sonia Rykiel brand. We have confidence and peace of mind that G-III will elevate the iconic Sonia Rykiel brand to its global potential.”
G-III has appointed Roland Herlory, CEO of Vilebrequin (a G-III brand), as CEO of Sonia Rykiel. He will run both businesses out of Paris and Geneva, where most of the functions are based.
“From my point of view, there is a huge potential with Sonia Rykiel. It had been one of the most symbolic brands in the way it liberated a woman’s body. She created the knitwear that was absolutely unique and in the spirit she created a new way to look at knitwear and emphasize the woman’s body. She created extremely comfortable clothes with velvet and terry. Everything she did was in deference to a woman,” Herlory told WWD.
He said Rykiel gave women their independence. “That’s really the spirit of what she created. She was a feminist,” Herlory said.
According to Herlory, Vilebrequin has a very strong team and organization, and they have the know-how to develop the Rykiel brand, which he called “a treasure.”
The goal is to modernize the brand, without betraying its heritage and to twist all these values and innovations into modernity, he said. “That’s what we did with Vilebrequin.”
Right now there are 10 people working at Rykiel, who are expected to stay. “The goal is to grow quickly. The brand 15 years ago was 100 million euros, which is almost $150 million U.S. dollars. The goal is to bring back this level of sales in the next three to five years,” Herlory said.
Herlory said the brand will be positioned at the affordable luxury level. He said they haven’t appointed a designer, and it will be designed by the team on site.
In its most recent incarnation, the brand was sold online and in stores. “Sonia Rykiel has always been a very modern brand. She was always super trendy, super edgy. We need to keep this fully alive. Today digital is a major distribution channel. I believe in omnichannel. I believe that digital only is not enough. It’s difficult to share the dream with digital only,” he said. He said the goal is to open 12 to 15 stores in the coming years in major cities around the world.
Rykiel is expected to be manufactured in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia.
Herlory previously spent 25 years at Hermès and he has several people on staff at Vilebrequin from Hermès. “The priority is to work on quality. The idea is to bring our expertise into the Sonia Rykiel brand.” Their first collection under G-III will be fall 2022. The spring 2022 line, under the Dayans, has been designed and sold already and will be shown digitally on Sunday.
Reached for further comment, Goldfarb explained what attracted him to the Sonia Rykiel business.
As for its recent history, Rykiel was an example of the challenges of smaller brands trying to adapt in an increasingly digitalized industry, which calls for steep investments in technology and infrastructure. The house went into receivership in 2019 after luxury group First Heritage Brands, controlled by Hong Kong billionaires Victor and William Fung, who owned it since 2012, renounced turnaround efforts and abandoned an attempt to find a new investor. The Dayan brothers had emphasized social networks, launched an Instagram account as well as e-commerce, in all markets at once, in 30 currencies showcasing styles such as sweaters, stripes and occasional rhinestone embellishments.
G-III, whose net sales for fiscal year 2021 were $2.1 billion, has more than 30 licensed and proprietary brands. Its owned brands include DKNY, Donna Karan, Vilebrequin, G.H. Bass, Eliza J., Jessica Howard and Andrew Marc. Its licensed business are under the Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Lagerfeld Paris, Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Guess, Vince Camuto, Levi’s and Dockers brands.
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