Big in Germain: Catching Up with Sonia Rykiel’s 21st Century Guy
I have mixed feelings about Paris. Growing up there made me want to leave the city, and every time I move away, nostalgia creeps in from time to time. Has the City of Light become a postcard cliché of nostalgia? Perhaps on many levels, but luckily not when it comes to its crucial, iconic fashion industry. I’ve noticed surprisingly French fashion houses are the most open to foreign designers and talents. Geraldo da Conceicao is one of them. Macao-born and Canada-raised, with European manners, Conceicao (who has been sharpening his tools at the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Martine Sitbon, and Miu Miu for years) ticks all the boxes. Creative director of Saint-Germain establishment Sonia Rykiel since the end of 2012, the designer already has three collections (including two Falls) under his belt. I caught up with him for a quick chat.
How challenging is it to design for a heritage brand such as Sonia Rykiel when your own background is quite far away from the Saint-Germain sixties chic?
I don’t think in terms of heritage. It’s more the idea of a body of codes with which to play with. Contrary to folklore, Saint-Germain is just an idea, an idea of separateness, of independent thinking; after all, it used to be a hamlet outside of Paris proper. I think the late-forties chic, a state of being as opposed to appearing.
Balancing a collection with wearable (sellable) pieces and strong pieces is not an easy task. What’s your process of thinking about that? In simple terms, how do you reconcile creativity with commercial success?
We try to create the special everyday, the strong things are wearable…all is relative. We put much emotional, physical, and reflective energy into this, [so that] hopefully women might be drawn to these efforts.
You worked for many big fashion houses before. How different is Sonia Rykiel from other houses?
It’s not different, and it is…many things are set and protean at the same time.
Where would you like to take the 2014/2015 Sonia Rykiel woman? Has she changed much? If so, in what ways?
I’d like to stretch the material meaning and expression, an honest luxury of the personal experience with the clothes.
You chose to work with Katie Grand to style the show. Did she add some British edge to the brand? If so, why?
I like Katie, first and foremost, for the strong professional she is. British is a part [of that], and at the same time, incidental. Mme. Rykiel always had an affinity for Britannia.
What are your three favorite places in Paris?
Comme des Garçons, 54, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré; Toraya, 10, Rue Saint-Florentin; Design et Nature, 4, Rue d’Aboukir.
Photo: Carlotta Manaigo