Since joining Maison Sonia Rykiel in 2014, Creative Director Julie de Libran has married Rykiel’s iconic ease and whimsy with her own vision of a liberated woman’s uniform. Having lived in as far-flung locales as the French countryside (where she was born), California (for high school), and Milan (to study fashion design)in addition to having held high positions in the upper echelons of fashion with brands like Prada, Versace, and Louis Vuitton—she certainly brings her own unique story to the storied house.
We’re especially taken with the clean lines and playful accents de Libran has brought to Rykiel’s FW17 handbags, available for the first time now at Barneys. Below, the globally minded Parisian designer shares insights into her must-have bag designs, why French women are so chic, and the best advice Sonia ever gave her.
The Window: Tell us about the bag collection launching at Barneys.
Julie de Libran: This season, my inspiration was the eccentric style of Niki de Saint Phalle. Both she and Sonia Rykiel were born the same year, 1930. They both used a creative platform to express their voice—one through designing clothes and the other by making art. They were both strong, individual women who used color to express joy. I wanted to create this collection with that character and inspire women today.
Do you approach designing accessories any differently than you approach ready-to-wear?
Accessories have a real utility, so it is important to be aware of all aspects for a women’s daily use. Sometimes I like for accessories to feel like part of the clothing, not necessarily standing out but rather looking like the pocket of a dress or a jacket—often in the same material or with the same embellishments.
What makes a handbag great?
When it is both desirable and functional right away.
Let’s talk about your own personal style philosophy—how do accessories fit into it?
Any bag I carry is very personal to me. I like to change bags often, depending on my day and mood. I like for my bag to have a real life of its own, for it to have character, to age with me, and for it to have a practical side. It is important that I can carry all my necessities close to me at all times. I love bags of all sizes—both to use them and to collect them.
Is there a mentor or formative experience that has impacted your aesthetic the most?
My mother. I used to spend hours in her closet looking at her bags and accessories, examining how things were made, the attitude each one gave to a silhouette, and how well the insides were organized.
People talk a lot about “French girl style”—especially in reference to Sonia Rykiel. What does that mean to you?
Yes, there is a real French girl style, a Parisian style, a Sonia Rykiel style. It feels very effortless—an individual style, surprising, playing with accessories, and personalizing them to make them feel like your own.
What’s the most important thing Sonia taught you?
Sonia taught me, “Learn how to say no.”
What keeps you inspired? What do you dial into that impacts your designs?
I love to express myself creatively by using a new story and a new silhouette each season to design and create a woman’s wardrobe. I love working with the “savoir faire” of the ateliers and creating new fabrics, embellishments, textures, and shapes—trying to create something new that you never thought you needed but that then feels desirable and brings joy to women.