We see a lot of designer boutiques here at The Shophound, and they always have something in common. They are generally designed to be tasteful and neutral backgrounds for the rarefied products they display. They may use luxurious and even innovative materials and have specially designed details that elegantly express their brand's image, but, generally without the clothes, they are a blank.
Is always refreshing to see someone willing break that pattern which is what we encountered this morning at the just-opened Sonia Rykiel boutique on Madison Avenue. Rykiel, the Parisian designer with the unmistakable mane of flaming red hair whose soigné collections amassed a cult of devoted fans over the past several decades, has been absent from Madison for a few years now as her label underwent some transition including her own retirement and the installation of new creative director, Julie de Libran. Rather than remaking the company in a wildly different direction, de Libran has successfully given the brand a shot in the arm but still pays tribute to the house signatures like those familiar striped knits and fluffy, colorful furs. When it came time to return to Madison Avenue, rather than reverting to Rykiel's traditionally sedate black and cream design scheme, de Libran and the company went for bright red lacquered shelves and a bookstore/café theme that appears in the brand's other international locations and serves as a delightful alternative to the parade of self-conscious opulence that has come to characterize Madison Avenue. The walls of the 1,900 square foot shop that was most recently a short-lived Kent & Curwen boutique, have been almost entirely covered in bookshelves which have been duly packed with all manner of literature ready for your perusal —as long as you read French. There are even a few racy volumes waiting for more private examination in the dressing rooms. Matching red lacquered mannequins bring the clothes to life, and a whimsically designed carpet by artist André Saraïva underscores the upbeat ambiance. The "café" corner in the front (pictured after the jump) shows off the newest accessories including the new "Le Copain" mini-bag (only $490) in all its colorful permutations. In short, Rykiel's return to Madison Avenue is inviting and fun, especially on a gloomy winter morning. Of course, Sonia Rykiel is no second tier brand. The clothes hanging on the racks are as luxurious and costly as anyone else's on the street, but it's amazing how a coat of red paint and a little bit of humor can vanish that that sense of self-important preciousness that seems to glaze over so many designer brand palaces in New York. See for yourself starting today.
Sonia Rykiel now open at 816 Madison Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets, Upper East Side
Have a look at some more images of the store after the jump