Unexpected news comes from the house of Sonia Rykiel today. The brand announced that Julie de Libran has been appointed as artistic director, replacing Geraldo da Conceicao, who spent only five seasons at the helm of the label. Like Da Conceicao, De Libran comes from Louis Vuitton, where she essentially served as Marc Jacobs’ right-hand woman during her five years as the house’s studio director of women’s ready-to-wear. She also headed up Vuitton’s Resort and Pre-Fall collections. De Libran, who did stints at Prada, Versace, Gianfranco Ferré, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac before her Vuitton tenure, departed LV after Nicolas Ghesquière took the reins. Her first collection for Sonia Rykiel—a house best known for its Parisian irreverence and gorgeous but wearable knits—will debut in Paris during the Spring ’15 shows.
So why the sudden switch? For starters, De Libran has more experience—and industry clout—than Da Conceicao. She was more or less the face of Vuitton’s pre-collections and is familiar with speaking to the press, and designing in line with a particular style or vision. It’s worth noting that the house and First Heritage Brands, which acquired an 80 percent stake in Sonia Rykiel in February 2012, have expressed via a release that De Libran’s hire is part of a “relaunch strategy and accelerated international development.” One might argue that given her name recognition and design track record, De Libran is more qualified than her predecessor to “develop” the label. Furthermore, as Sonia Rykiel’s daughter Nathalie states, De Libran is “a woman, a Frenchwoman. An international woman and a talented one. A woman who enjoys dressing herself and designing for other women.” While one could, I suppose, make a case for reverse sexism here, the fact that De Libran is a femme française who adores fashion (just take a look at the street-style blogs or her Instagram account for proof) and manages to juggle a career and a family allows her to understand the Sonia Rykiel ethos better than a male designer might. Whatever the reason for her appointment, I look forward to seeing what the designer brings to Rykiel in September.