The installation of a new designer at an old house typically follows one of three classic matchmaker narratives: doomed from Day One; slow stall out; and in the rare case, the spark catches. After Julie de Libran’s first show for Sonia Rykiel, all indications are toward the elusive alchemy that can propel a storied brand in a new, dynamic direction.
Billed as “a housewarming” in the copies of a hand-written letter from de Libran that accompanied press notes, the show felt personal. It was an intimate seating, staged at Rykiel’s store on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, in a neighborhood synonymous with the happy, French-Bohemian spirit Rykiel has encapsulated since it launched in 1968. In turn, the label is most freely associated with its founding designer’s knitwear and stripes, and de Libran chose the latter as her focal point for spring. She issued them in ways that were contemporary, playful and sophisticated without ever descending to the generic. “We all love stripes, they make us smile,” said the designer after the show. “The collection is feminine. It’s about dressing beautiful girls, hopefully in a complete wardrobe.”
To model, de Libran cast the personality girls, opening with Georgia May and Lizzy Jagger, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Edie Campbell, and closing with Miranda Kerr and Joan Smalls. They wore light, nubby ivory tweeds with raw hems and a subtle panel of green, orange and black stripes. More stripes came woven tonally into sporty, cropped sweaters trimmed with ample fringe; on knitted mink jackets; paneled around the midsection of neat stretch-crepe jackets with scooped necklines; and on a black-sequin mesh jumpsuit, a most modern proposal for evening.
The silhouettes hit on the blend of artisanal detail, utility and chic sport that is current right now, capturing a youthful spirit in a way that felt luxurious and adult — even with an abundance of bra tops, abbreviated shorts and overalls. Asked about the collection’s many jumpsuits, cut straight and cropped, de Libran said, “It was about legs. I like that it looks like a dress and then when she walks, you see legs. She’s an active woman and she has somewhere to go.”
De Libran — after a 10-year stint at Prada and five as Marc Jacobs’ design director at Louis Vuitton — is well on her way at Rykiel.