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Can Sonia Rykiel’s Digitally-Minded New Owners Reinvent the Storied French House?

While many fashion labels are going under in this challenging climate, Sonia Rykiel is set to relaunch.

Starting this weekend with its social networks, the heritage French house will resume activity under new owners, brothers Éric and Michael Dayan. 

The entrepreneurial duo have a background in digital fashion distribution, co-founding Showroomprive.com, an e-commerce fashion platform specializing in private flash sales, in 2006. The company was listed on the Paris stock exchange in 2015, and the pair left the venture two years ago to concentrate on new projects.

Enter Sonia Rykiel. “We are very proud to announce the acquisition of this iconic and universal brand whose creations are so identifiable and whose values ​​are so contemporary. We are truly committed to perpetuating this magnificent house by combining heritage and modernity,” the brothers said in a statement released yesterday.

Although, the pandemic has forced them to postpone the rollout of their full strategy, they are eager to build new buzz around the name.

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Sonia Rykiel's new owners brothers Éric and Michael Dayan
Sonia Rykiel’s new owners brothers Éric and Michael Dayan.
CREDIT: Sonia Rykiel

In view of their digital experience, turning to social was a no-brainer. “We want to share positive messages and visually relay the key, unifying and inspiring values ​​of the brand,” they said, citing the house’s existing social community, which includes 445K followers on Instagram.

According to a study by luxury trend consultancy Heuritech, Instagram has seen an increase in traffic of 70% since the start of widespread confinement.

Confinement has forced companies to adapt their strategy to the current conditions and pivot focus to the digital.

Sonia Rykiel went into the equivalent of bankruptcy in April 2019 after previous owner, First Heritage Brands, failed to find a new investor. Shortly before, the brand had parted ways with former creative director Julie de Libran. The company was liquidated in July when no buyer could be found. In December, liquidators approved a straight asset sale not involving debt. The sale has now been finalized.

The assets acquired by the new owners take in over 400 intellectual property titles in France and abroad. These include the fashion brands Sonia Rykiel, Rykiel Homme and diffusion line Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, plus perfume, beauty and lifestyle licenses, stock and documentary and clothing archives.

As to the new creative direction, that remains a work in progress but according to the brothers, the house’s emblematic knitwear will remain an important focus.

The late Sonia Rykiel launched her eponymous brand in May 1968, at a key moment for the women’s liberation movement.

As the pandemic changes consumer behavior, shoppers will likely gravitate to trusted brands with a sense of history and a defined story. If the new owners can repackage the house’s  heritage within a newly digital context, it could make a successful return.

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