PARIS, France — At first glance, Lola Rykiel's new athleisure line, Pompom, has little in common with the stripey knits that made her grandmother, Sonia Rykiel, a sought-after designer for decades.
But the connection couldn't be clearer, she said in an interview.
"My grandmother loved to pronounce that word 'Pompon'. She put tassels on sweaters, pants, everywhere," she said. In April, the 33-year-old founder of the communications agency Le Chocolat Noir, resigned from her eight-year-long representation of Sonia Rykiel's label. She continues to represent designers such as Marie-Hélène de Taillac. In parallel, she has been working on a project of her own called Pompom.
“I wanted to do things like my grandmother, with my means and my way,” she said.
In 2012, a Hong Kong investment group First Heritage Brands, then-known as Fung Brands, acquired 80 percent of the Sonia Rykiel label from the family, and the legendary designer died in 2016. Three years after the passing of the "Queen of Knitwear", the brand is in dire straits. Facing a sharp decline in sales, the property of First Heritage Brands which is helmed by French luxury executive Jean-Marc Loubier, has closed stores, and entered into the French equivalent of bankruptcy. The owner is eager to unload its asset.
Relocating from New York to Paris earlier this year, Lola noticed that the athleisure wardrobe wasn't as prevalent among French women than in America.
"It doesn't make sense because workout clothes are very versatile," she said. "They can be glamour and chic!"
The collection of around 20 pieces includes wrap-over tops, tapered leggings, oversized hoodies, classic jumpers and soft trousers.
"I was inspired by my passion for dancing," said Rykiel, who moved to New York at 19 to enrol in the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.
"Pompom doesn't take itself too seriously, which I feel strongly about," she said. "And it's dynamic, this is what you want for an athleisure brand."
Velours, reminiscent of her grandmother's famous knits, are featured in the collection. (She sourced the fabric from the same factory in France.)
Prices range from €110 for the cropped top to €350 for the tie and dye long sweatshirt. The line is slated to debut in November at first on Pompom's own website and at The Place London, a concept store with two locations in London and one in Paris, founded and owned by her father Simon Burstein, the former Browns chief executive.