Julie De Libran Exits Sonia Rykiel After Five Years As Artistic Director

Julie de Libran and Sonia Rykiel have parted ways, the French company announced on March 14.

Sonia Rykiel, a brand synonymous with Left Bank joie de vivre and stripes, celebrated its 50th anniversary in spectacular fashion last year. Bananarama were hired to perform at the autumn/winter 2018 show, and spring/summer 2019 coincided with the rechristening of a Paris street as Allée Sonia Rykiel in honour of the house founder, who died in 2016. The staging of that collection showcased the label’s close ties to the neighbourhood: de Libran’s son walked in the show, as did other children. In July, a one-off couture collection demonstrating what de Libran called the “savoir faire of Rykiel’s amazing atelier” was presented side-by-side with a limited edition series of sweaters created by friends of the label, many of whom the designer dressed during her nearly five years as artistic director at the company. The brand has always known how to throw a good party: For Rykiel’s 40th anniversary in 2008, a who’s who of international designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Jean Paul Gaultier to Rodarte’s Mulleavy sisters, designed clothes in her honour.

De Libran hailed from Louis Vuitton, where one of her specialties was red-carpet dresses for celebrities. Sofia Coppola was subsequently a regular front-row sight at her Sonia Rykiel shows. The designer made a splash with her first collection for the house circa spring/summer 2015, booking the then runway newcomer Gigi Hadid for a show at the landmark Boulevard Saint Germain shop and updating Rykiel’s signature striped knits. Shortly thereafter, the store was remodelled with row upon row of well-stocked lacquer-red bookshelves – the St. Germain neighborhood is famously associated with French intellectuals and artists – and a New York renovation soon followed.

Recent shows have been set at Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts, but de Libran presented autumn/winter 2019 in a showroom earlier this month, an early indication, perhaps, of the recent news. Her final collection for the label is stocked with on-brand stripes, timely trouser suits, and innovative knits. “It’s not about fashion,” de Libran said, “it’s about the iconic values of the house.” Thanking de Libran for her service, a company press release stated: “Management is working on defining the future organisation of the studio to carry on the development of the brand based on her creative strength and know-how.” Whatever Julie de Libran’s next moves are, we’ll be watching closely.

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