Sonia Rykiel

From Parisian Literary Café to Madison Avenue: Sonia Rykiel Opens New Manhattan Outpost


Red lacquer bookshelves filled with colorful French books line the walls at Sonia Rykiel’s new outpost on New York City’s affluent Madison Avenue. The boutique was transformed into a Parisian café where shoppers can linger at one of the tables and skim the pages of Madame Bovary or La Rencontre by Henri Troya, while browsing through the vibrant garments from the French fashion house. Situated in between stores like Proenza Schouler, Belstaff and Jil Sander, the brand known for its feminine knitwear eponymous to Parisian style, finds a home in its luxurious uptown surrounds.

The rouge hued walls are lined with more than 15,000 books obtained directly from Paris to create the fanciful setting. Black and white checkered floors are showcased alongside dark blue carpeting with a playful pattern of red lips, pencils, cigarettes, eyes and books by artist Andre Saraiva. Inside the store, the discreet scent of rosewater, mandarin, vetiver and jasmine loiters in the air, creating a respite from the chaotic environs outside. The retailer’s signature scent was originally created by Danielle Andreiux for Rykiel’s flagship location in Paris’ Saint-Germain neighborhood.

Graffiti artist Saraiva, who envisioned the playfully designed carpet meant to signify the Sonia Rykiel woman, adds his edge to the store’s feminine aesthetic. Saraiva gained notoriety in the early 1990s with his “Mr A” cartoon character of a round face with a cross and a circle for its eyes and a large smile. His creations can be found everywhere from its rightful home on the streets to the walls of night clubs in global hubs like Paris, New York and Tokyo. Throughout his artistic career, the Paris-based creative has exhibited in solo shows around the world.

Designed in collaboration with artistic director Julie de Libran, Saraiva and Thomas Lenthal, the 2000-foot space boasts large, sleek windows displaying red mannequins donned in sumptuous garbs and a sleek, black exterior with the brand’s name penned in white. De Libran was a welcome addition to the company, which she joined from Louis Vuitton in 2014. Lenthal, who also provided his artistic vision to the store concept, is the art director for the magazine System, which he also helped launch, and has been a creative director for a number of luxury fashion brands.

The Madison Avenue outpost is the label’s first freestanding store in the United States. The brand shut the doors on its original New York City boutique in 2011, which was located just a few blocks from its shiny, new digs. “This is a key step in the brand’s global development,” said CEO of the label, Eric Langon, in a press release. “We look forward to growing our footprint in the United States and to our continued acceleration under Julie de Libran’s creative direction for the years to come.” The accessories, leather goods, footwear and the Parisian brand’s beautiful ready-to-wear collection are all showcased inside the space. The venue also features children’s garments and exclusive designs created by de Libran for the Madison Avenue location. The boutique also echoes the Left-Bank store’s literary aesthetic, which also includes red-lacquer walls brimming over with books.

Recently at Paris Fashion Week, the label presented its ready to wear collection in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, situated around the corner from their Saint-Germain des Pres boutique. De Libran’s designs at fashion week showcased a print by collage artist Maggie Cardelus. The design featured the faces of women in Rykiel’s life and career including Sonia, her daughter Nathalie, her granddaughter Lola, De Libran and Cardelus.

To date, the French fashion house has over 33 global retail locations and numerous stations inside high-end department stores such as Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. Rykiel opened her first boutique in 1968 in Paris and made her mark in the fashion world with her feminine knitwear creations.

Text by Lena Vazifdar