Sonia Rykiel fashion house to close youth lines and cut jobs

Chinese owners warn they may shut business if it fails to return to profit

Fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, who died in August. Photograph: Getty Images

Fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, who died in August. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Sonia Rykiel, the Paris fashion house whose iconic founder died in August, may be fighting for its future after its Chinese owners warned they may shut it down if it fails to return to profit, sources in the struggling company said.

“Sonia by Sonia Rykiel”, the firm’s younger and trendier sister line, as well as its children’s clothes section are to be shut down and up to half of the company’s 300-strong staff could be laid off early next year, The Irish Times has been told.

Those two lines as well as the main Sonia Rykiel line have been loss-making for years, and investors Fung Brands of Hong Kong, which bought a controlling share in the fashion firm in 2012, have reportedly told the French firm to put its house in order or they will pull the plug.

“I believe the Chinese have given us three years to return to profit,” a source in the firm said.

The fashion firm is due to issue a statement this week that will mention a “restructuring” but will avoid revealing the troubled financial state of the firm that was founded in 1968 in the literary Paris quarter Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Queen of knitwear

When its founder, Sonia Rykiel, died in August aged 86 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, she was mourned by French president François Hollande as an inventor of “an attitude, a way of life”.

Ms Rykiel, known as the “Queen of Knitwear”, was one of the few women who made it to the top of a sector long dominated by men like Yves Saint Laurent or Karl Lagerfeld.

She made her breakthrough in 1962 with the so-called “poor boy sweater”, and went on to create clothes that oozed sophisticated laid-back chic.

But the company has struggled in recent years.

“Management is concerned that suppliers might stop working for us” if they learn of the parlous state of the firm’s finances, the company source said, adding that Sonia Rykiel planned to lower prices for its next collection as part of attempts to rebalance the books.

All Sonia by Sonia Rykiel shops and children’s boutiques are to be closed and the group has been ordered to concentrate on its main Sonia Rykiel line.

The source said the atmosphere in the firm was “catastrophic” and blamed management for the current lamentable state of what for decades has been a prestigious player on the world fashion scene.

The company did not immediately respond when contacted by The Irish Times for comment on its planned restructuring.