The house of Rykiel is in transition. A year and a half ago, the legendary Sonia stepped down. Last September, longtime Rykiel hand April Crichton showed her first collection as the brand's creative director; then, in February, it was announced that up-and-coming luxury group Fung Brands had bought a majority stake in the label. And this season, it turns out, was Crichton's last. What with all the topsy-turviness, it's not altogether surprising that the house made a last-minute decision to cancel the Spring 2013 runway show, and do appointments instead. But it's something of a shame: For her Rykiel swan song, Crichton cooked up a genuinely interesting collection, even if it sometimes seemed divorced from the Rykiel signatures.
Perhaps the un-Rykiel-ness had to do with the collection's Japanese-ness, reflected not only in the on-trend (and frankly unavoidable) kimono references, but also in the weathered quality of the textiles. There was an intriguing group of semi-unraveled knits, and a great, fraying quilted cotton deployed in the collection's hip-looking squared-off sweatshirt and (yes) wrap mini. Crichton also had a good spin on kimono tying, making it a feature of cropped pants in a dense cotton-linen knit, and her woven reinterpretation of Spring's trendy jacquards was also compelling. Piece for piece, this wasn't an altogether satisfying collection, but those knit pieces gave you the sense that Crichton was on to something, and that traveling so far afield from the Rykiel trademarks had given her the freedom to enhance and update them in interesting ways. Now another designer will have to finish the job of cracking the Rykiel code.