Sonia Rykiel gets ready for yet another reinvention.
The beloved French fashion house Sonia Rykiel — founded in 1968 by a flame-haired feminist to empower women, passed on to her daughter in 2007 and sold to Hong Kong investors in 2012 — went into liquidation. At the time, it appeared to be a sad denouement for the once-revolutionary ready-to-wear brand.
But now the house of Rykiel is about to rise again, under new owners. Or is it? Fashion history is littered with tales of newfangled entrepreneurs who have swooped in to save old brands, only to leave them in tatters. Will Rykiel be one of them or the exception that proves the rule?
“The Sonia Rykiel brand is not damaged, it still has strong values,” said Michael Dayan, who, along with his brother Eric, made a fortune in outlet e-tailing and bought Rykiel late last year. The Dayans have big plans for the brand. A revamped women’s wear line. A men’s wear line. A perfume. Perhaps even a boutique hotel.
What’s more, “Sonia Rykiel is a brand with a strong heritage, but a difficult one to bring back to centre stage,” said Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at Bernstein. “It is possible that you hit great ideas and that you manage to get back to notoriety and desirability — but doing that in an industry dominated by mega-brands with way more resources for marketing and communication is very difficult.”
Case in point: the French modernist brand Courrèges. In 2011, a pair of French advertising executives, Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting bought the company from its founders, André and Coqueline Courrèges, and installed the hot design duo Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant of Coperni Femme. Despite the splashy overhaul, sales faltered, and by 2018, all four were gone.
Rykiel was a thriving business, it had “600 points of sale in the U.S. alone,” Michael said. The Dayan’s “want something smaller, more of an ‘experience,’” Michael said. They are real estate shopping on the Left Bank — including talking to Ms Rykiel about taking over the original Saint-Germain property — with the dream of housing a shop, offices, and perhaps a small hotel, all in one building. Moving into hotels is not such a stretch, Eric said; in the 1980s, he recalled, “Sonia redecorated the Crillon and the Lutetia.”