SHARE
COPY LINK

FASHION

Paris fashion house Sonia Rykiel goes bust with the loss of 131 jobs

The troubled Sonia Rykiel French fashion house - that once symbolised the rebellious spirit of Paris in 1968 - on Thursday went into liquidation.

Paris fashion house Sonia Rykiel goes bust with the loss of 131 jobs
Photo: AFP

A Paris court ordered the winding up of the loss-making brand founded by the “Queen of Knits” Rykiel, an icon of 1960s revolt against the fashion establishment.

Despite the boom in luxury French fashion, a buyer could not be found to take on the label since it went into receivership in April.


The founder designer, second left, who died in 2017. Photo: AFP

Several of the brand's 131 workers who were in court for the decision burst into tears when the winding up order was made.

Their lawyer Thomas Hollande told AFP that the decision would mean them losing their jobs.

Rykiel's first boutique opened on the Left Bank of the French capital in May 1968 just as students took to the streets outside demanding an end to the old order.

The designer, who died two years ago from Parkinson's disease aged 86, made her name with the “Poor Boy Sweater” made famous by film star Audrey Hepburn.

She is also credited with making wearing black the epitome of Parisian cool, once saying she didn't like wasting time choosing colours.

“I like to dress very simply – perhaps a black crepe jacket and black crepe trousers,” she said.

Red-haired Rykiel caught the revolutionary spirt of the time with easy to wear clothes that often bore political slogans, and she signed a famous feminist declaration in 1971 that paved the way for the legalisation of abortion in France.

So great was her influence on Paris fashion in the 1970s – when the scene was dominated by the friends-turned-bitter-rivals Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent – that she was known as “Coco Rykiel”, a nod to the pioneering female designer Coco Chanel.

But last year her brand – half of whose sales were in France – lost €30 million. 

Several investors had expressed interest in taking the house on, including the former chief of the Paris brand Balmain, Emmanuel Diemoz, and a Chinese conglomerate, but all came to nothing.

Sonia Rykiel's four boutiques and six other outlets will close immediately. 

The name could yet live on, however, if the name is acquired separately.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

FASHION

Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance. 

SHOW COMMENTS