Oh, if only Sonia Rykiel, Miuccia Prada, and Elsa Schiaparelli could have been assembled for a postmortem on this show. What would each of them have made of the collection, with its cheeky knit tunics, illusion jacquards, and feisty ingenue sensibility?
This much is clear: There was more Rykiel from the seventies and eighties (the black and golden decades) than there has been in recent seasons—even if there remains less Rykiel on the corporate side. In February last year, luxury group Fung Brands acquired an 80 percent stake in the company and named Geraldo da Conceicao as artistic director mere weeks before the Spring 2013 presentation. He comes with an impressive CV: his Paris years spent at Yves Saint Laurent under Alber Elbaz, Tom Ford, and Stefano Pilati; five years in Milan as design director at Miu Miu; and then a return to Paris where he designed for Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. You can't spend that much time working with The Greats and not pick up a thing or two. Sometimes, those things were quite obvious: A slouchy cardigan fronted in beaver whispered Miuccia. All that sheer black boudoir business was decidedly Saint Laurent. Small shocks of pink inside the vents of jackets and skirts screamed of Schiap.
So then, what of Rykiel? Well, the collection's little black dress featured a band of pink across the chest and a triangle patch toward the nether regions. Let's give it a PG-13 for innuendo. Rykiel, after all, was an early pusher of going braless. Whereas the Rykiel gal of yore was loyal to Café de Flore and other Left Bank hangouts, her equivalent today would be hanging out in the area known as SoPi, or South Pigalle, where trendy boîtes brush up against peep-show joints. But these here were good girls, merely tempted at the thought of going bad. They wear leatherette pants in cherry red and sky blue, and Lucite heels with kneesocks that read "warm cheri," "hot joie," and "play amour."
After the show, da Conceicao insisted he did not mine the archives but rather the "spirit" of the label. The ever-luscious shoe designer Charlotte Dellal congratulated the designer and conveyed how much she loved the collection, and how she has fond memories of being dressed in the "jumpers" as a young girl. If she represents the new Rykiel customer (and not just its past), then the brand is back on track.