A few days before the spring Sonia Rykiel show, which fell just over a month after the house founder’s death at age 86, Julie de Libran gave Rykiel’s daughter, Nathalie, a preview of the tribute she had planned: 12 models, all of them with red hair just like Sonia’s, lined up in bloomers and black sweaters that spelled out “Rykiel Forever,” one letter at a time. They would walk down the runway to Max Richter’s interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
“She said, ‘It’s not sad. It’s really beautiful,’” said de Libran, recounting Nathalie’s reaction, which was spot on. De Libran laced the show with touching, happy memorials for Madame Rykiel, setting up in the entrance a video installation of clips and portraits of her over the years, including a striking smoky photograph by Sarah Moon that was also featured in the program. De Libran closed the show with a finale of special Rykiel striped looks that walked under celebratory pops of silver confetti. There were tears, but as Natalie said, it was beautiful.
And so was de Libran’s collection. No sympathy votes here. The lineup was one of her most daring and modern, as she worked openly with the house codes in fresh, freethinking ways. Aside from the signature Rykiel tropes of stripes, peasant dresses and knits, de Libran’s big ideas — and they were literally big as she made volume a huge story — were workwear and cotton. “Women today are so active, they need clothes that help them and liberate them throughout their day,” she said during a preview.
She let loose with proportions, cutting the opening sequence of seaside blue cottons with ample breathing room. A generously sized sailor shirt tunic came over wide-leg pants with white top-stitching. A vertical striped tunic swung over a longer skirt. An XL take on a navy mariner sweater with big bell sleeves was shot with two amplified white stripes. The mix of blues and whites captured in lightweight cotton felt crisp, even if some of the silhouettes will inevitably be slimmed at retail. And despite full-coverage fits, the looks exuded confidence and tomboy flirtation.
From there, the flirtation heightened. Shapes got slimmer. Workwear-inspired tops were cut off-the-shoulder and belted over pants. Sporty knit dresses clung to the body and were slit up the thigh, even if they didn’t show any leg — they were styled over pants. Gypsy dresses came with exaggerated, witchy sleeves in stripes for day and lace for evening. De Libran closed the lineup with a show of feminine bravado: ultra voluminous gypsy tops in silver brocade with raw edges that billowed over wide-leg pants. It was sexy statement dressing for the unusual girl next door with an undeniable allure. That was the attitude Sonia Rykiel loved and lived.