It is 50 years this May since Left Bank knitwear designer Sonia Rykiel opened her first boutique in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and artistic director Julie de Libran, who has been reinvigorating and updating the brand with her youthful and sophisticated designs since 2014, is celebrating in characteristically witty style.
A limited edition bag, Le Pavé Parisien (£785), launches on April 26, and resonates in more ways than one. The compact, cuboid design (available in six shades including bright red, Wedgwood blue, tan and pale lemon), with rounded corners, and cross-body strap, flat-top handle, inside-lid mirror and secret pockets, is inspired by a ’50s-style vanity bag, but its true cultural touchstone is intended to be the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Paris student uprising.
The bag’s shape and name echo the centuries-old paving stones (pavés) the students tore up in order to build barricades across the fifth arrondisement, or hurl at the authorities, in so doing exposing sand underneath – leading to the iconic slogan, “sous les pavés, la plage” (under the cobblestones, the beach). Eventually, when the uprising was over, the tarmacers moved in and the historic pavés were sold as souvenirs.
De Libran was born four years after 1968, but her design captures Rykiel’s iconoclastic spirit. Not many designers achieve a piece of timeless fashion and a lighthearted political statement in one go, but de Libran is no run-of-the-mill designer.