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Kia LaBeija x Sonia Rykiel
Photography Kia LaBeija

Sonia Rykiel’s Baltard bag shows Paris is still a quintessential influence

Le Baltard bag now features in a collaborative shoot with vogueing radical artist Kia LaBeija

In the sunny spring of May 1968, design house Sonia Rykiel opened its first boutique in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on Paris’ left bank. As the store’s opening signified, Paris had a beautifully powerful influence on Rykiel’s designs – a French force that would transcend across the brand’s entire existence. By the 1970s, French stars like Brigitte Bardot were sporting Sonia Rykiel, showing that the brand was influencing Parisian life just as much as it was shaping the brand. Fifty years on, and Paris’ impact on the brand still shines, now through the work of Rykiel’s current director, Julie de Libran, the first designer from outside the Rykiel family, whose intricate fusions of Parisian motifs pay homage to the late Sonia Rykiel. The label’s Le Baltard bag echoes this spirit powerfully. Its lattice-like structure takes inspiration from Parisian architecture, while also referencing the Parisian style market bag. Launched in 2017, each season the bag is re-done in new colours such as lime green and orange, and new materials. The Baltard collection also manifests in different sizes that range from a tote bag to a small handbag. 

Most recently, Sonia Rykiel has collaborated with radical vogueing artist Kia LaBeija. Hinting at the brand’s global reach, the shoot features LaBeija in a set of self-portraits inspired by photographer Carl Van Vechten, who photographed some of the greatest black artists of the Harlem Renaissance in 1920s New York. Taking inspiration from Van Vechten’s use of brightly coloured backdrops and props, the series’ vibrancy and use of fruit nods to the Baltard’s intricate design and it references market life in France. The series’ strong composition, as LaBeija’ fluidly moves her body into different shapes, shows the artist's historical ties with the art of vogueing, being the mother of house LaBeija, and having had collaborated with the likes of MoMA PS1 and Fergie as a vogueing artist. “Working with Sonia Rykiel was a great experience,” reflects LaBeija. “They gave me a lot of creative freedom, which is really appreciated. I really like the brand a lot! The bags are just awesome, the orange and green being my favourite. The detail on the strap is so sexy and has a weight to it that feels so solid and so right. I would definitely rock these bags – oh wait, I already did.”

Composition and symbolism aside, above all, the collaboration is a statement of female power, as it fuses LaBeija’s use of portraiture to write queer women of colour into history, with Sonia Rykiel’s essence as a house empowering women to embrace their freedom and individuality.