PARIS — A Paris commercial court weighing bids for beleaguered fashion house Sonia Rykiel will issue its ruling on July 25, WWD has learned.
On July 1, the court will hold a closed-door hearing with various parties including the company’s works council, administrators, bidders and executives of the label, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. The famed striped knitwear label has been in receivership since April.
Two proposals have emerged as likely front-runners, with finances and a strategy aimed at keeping the label in operation, retaining some of the company’s 130 employees, these people said. One of them has a designer lined up to become creative director.
Former Balmain chief executive officer Emmanuel Diemoz is leading one of these bids, while the other involves a wealthy French family with industrial holdings in other sectors, but no experience in the fashion business, according to the sources. Diemoz did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The executive is credited for playing a key part in the revival of Balmain, building brand heat with a younger audience through showy designs from Olivier Rousteing and a strong social media presence.
The family bidders have enlisted help from an industry expert, and a younger family member with experience in the digital and technology realms, according to sources.
A key point of discussions is the label’s sprawling flagship on Boulevard Saint Germain, with one bid hinging on keeping the emblematic store, but at lower rent levels, they added.
While an additional four to five bids are in the running, all scenarios remain a possibility — including new bidders, until July 25; liquidation also remains a possibility, they said.
As reported, earlier in June, the extension of a deadline for offers from the end of May to June 12 opened the way for the number of bidders to double to 10, with proposals coming from France and abroad.
Sonia Rykiel has struggled to find its footing since its founder passed away in 2016.
Its owner, First Heritage Brands, mandated investment bank Compagnie Financière Edmond de Rothschild in January to seek an investor or outright buyer for the brand, which it acquired in 2012.
Rykiel’s revenues stood at 83.7 million euros in 2011, with a loss of 1.4 million euros, the year before the founding family sold an 80 percent stake to Fung Brands, an investment company backed by Hong Kong billionaires Victor and William Fung that is now known as First Heritage Brands.
The owners sought to revive the business by capitalizing on its identity, anchored by founder Sonia Rykiel, who was dubbed the “Queen of Knits” by WWD.
Sales came to 35 million euros in 2018, with a loss of 20 million euros, excluding its investment of 10 million euros in events marking the house’s 50th anniversary.
The house let its creative director Julie de Libran go in March. De Libran, who had been recruited in 2014, had moved the collections upscale.
Rykiel counts 10 freestanding boutiques, most of them in France, including its historic flagship on Boulevard Saint-Germain, after closing locations in New York, London, Brussels and Luxembourg. It has around 200 points of sale worldwide, with partners including Lane Crawford and Net-a-porter.