Sonia Rykiel: who are the label's new owners, Eric and Michael Dayan?
Eric and Michael Dayan are the latest example in France of e-entrepreneurs leveraging their pure-player success to buy a distinguished fashion label. The co-founders of fashion inventory clearance website Showroomprivé kept a low profile the day after they acquired the rights to the brand name and archives of Sonia Rykiel. In a brief press release, the two brothers simply underlined they are “French shareholders solidly grounded in a strong family and entrepreneurial culture.”
The Dayan brothers, who emphasised their knowledge of the fashion industry and, in their words, their “financial solidity,” were chosen by the trade court ahead of some 20 other bidders for the Sonia Rykiel assets after the label's liquidation.
Eric and Michael Dayan were born respectively in Paris in 1980 and in Joinville-le-Pont in 1981. They are the sons of Sam Dayan, who at the end of the 1980s founded France Export, a de-stocking specialist operating in Paris’s Sentier district, a traditional textile and garment manufacturing hub. In 2006, Sam’s eldest son, David, drew on the family business’s resources to create with Thierry Petit the fashion inventory clearance website ShowroomPrivé. Both Eric and Michael were involved in the operation, and were active for several years as managing partners of ShowroomPrivé.
“Michael’s background is in legal affairs, but he also worked extensively on the commercial side of the business, and was heavily involved in decisions on the product range, brands and price positioning,” said Petit. “Eric instead concentrated on the wholesale and physical sales front, which went on in parallel with the website's development,” he added. The business skills of Sonia Rykiel’s two new owners are therefore complementary, as were those of the two co-CEOs of ShowroomPrivé, Petit having the web savvy and Dayan the fashion know-how.
This combination gradually led ShowroomPrivé to make womenswear the central element of its positioning in terms of product range and marketing approach. It was also a key point of difference from market leader Vente-Privée, one that led in 2015 to the launch of IRL, ShowroomPrivé’s own womenswear label. Michael Dayan was notably involved in this venture.
“We are delighted, because Sonia Rykiel clearly is a first-rate label,” Petit told FashionNetwork.com. “Also, it’s a very good thing that the label will remain French. Over the years, Eric and Michael have accumulated a great deal of practical knowledge within the company, and now they have to spearhead a project that is demanding, but no less attractive,” he added.
Pure players with an appetite for big brands
Eric and Michael stepped down from their operational roles in Showroomprivé two years ago, but they sit on its board of directors and still own a stake - just over 4% each, according to the financial statements of spring 2019 - in the site that is now active in six countries besides France. The same international aspirations that Eric and Michael now have for Sonia Rykiel, relying on its reputation and 50-year history.
The Sonia Rykiel acquisition is also the most recent example to date of the growing interest shown by pure player and e-commerce entrepreneurs for long-established French brands in trouble.
In 2018, Boris Saragaglia, founder and CEO of Grenoble-based footwear e-tailer Spartoo, bought footwear brand André, founded in 1896, as it was caught up in the hurried dismantlement of the Vivarte group. A few months later, Karine Schrenzel and Olivier Gensburger, co-founders of Shopinvest (owner of Lemon Curve, Mencorner, Comptoir de l’Homme and seven other e-tail sites) went down the same road, buying mail-order company 3 Suisses, which had been in business for nearly 90 years.
In the Dayan brothers’ case, the acquisition involves a luxury designer label, Sonia Rykiel, which the new owners proudly describe as “an iconic name in France’s fashion heritage.” They will have to re-start from scratch, as Sonia Rykiel currently has no organisation nor employees.
After failing to find a buyer, the label was liquidated in July 2019, three years after the eponymous designer's death. Its revenue fell to €35 million in 2018, having almost halved in the few years in which it was owned by First Heritage Brands. When the company was liquidated, it had 131 employees and operated six directly owned stores.
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