In its heyday in the 1960s and '70s, Sonia Rykiel was synonymous with French chic, from the shrunken "poor boy" sweater that landed on the cover of Elle magazine and launched her career in 1968, to endless interpretations of the iconic French striped sailor sweater, a style still fashionable today, to the safety pin brooch that was a favorite fashionable Paris souvenir.
So it was with great anticipation that the fashion crowd decamped to the Rykiel store in the bohemian Saint Germain-des-Pres neighborhood that is the brand's spiritual home for an intimate presentation of the first collection by new artistic director Julie de Libran.
A veteran of Prada and Louis Vuitton, Libran was born in France but spent most of her 1980s childhood in California, where she remembers her mother wearing Sonia Rykiel.
A leggy blonde, Libran greeted guests at the door, where champagne was served in flutes from Café de Flore, the fashionable Left Bank hangout where the flame-haired Rykiel has long been a regular.
At each seat were copies of a hand-written letter in which Libran characterized the gathering as a "housewarming party," and expressed her affection for the brand. There was also a parting gift, a striped sailor T-shirt.
And indeed, Libran chose Rykiel's distinctive stripes as inspiration for the collection, which was modeled by all the cool girls, including Georgia May Jagger, Lizzie Jagger, Kendall Jenner and Miranda Kerr.
Stripes were woven onto a loosely structured, nubby ivory tweed jacket and shorts, knitted onto fun furs, realized as swinging fringe on a white leather midi-skirt and cropped knit poncho, and rendered in sequins on a sailor sweater. In between, there were lots of the kind of utilitarian, military-inspired pieces we've been seeing elsewhere on the runways, including sailor pants galore, and a killer denim jumpsuit that oozed '70s style, seductively cut away at the sides, cropped over striped socks and strappy sandals, and worn with a navy-and-white stripe mink vest.
The clothes had real spirit. Libran should settle into her new house quite nicely.