Sybilla Pops Up on Mercer

Sybilla Pops Up on Mercer

After 20 Years of Absence, Sybilla is Back and Better Than Ever

After 20 Years of Absence, Sybilla is Back and Better Than Ever

Text: Katharine K. Zarrella

If you’ve walked down Mercer Street in the past week, you’ve no doubt noticed a crisp, clean new storefront with a black cocoon coat perched in the window like a praying mantis. For the information those whose curiosity (and/or shopping addictions) didn’t get the best of them, that store—a pop-up—is the latest phase of the return of Sybilla, arguably the biggest designer to come out of Spain since Cristobal Balenciaga. “We’ve been traveling and opening pop-ups in different cities,” says Sybilla of the boutique. “We’re like gypsies moving from town to town, like a circus. It’s the best way to get to know the clients, see the clothes on real women, and celebrate.”

Sybilla was a force in fashion from her launch in 1983, to her departure from the industry in 2005, after which she escaped to the Spanish island of Majorca to pursue farming (more on that later). The designer, who was born in New York, raised in Madrid, and later moved to Paris, made her mark via architectural, wearable clothes that at once armored and complimented women’s bodies. You’ve no doubt seen her S/S ’91 little black cutout dress, whose geometric shapes seemed to strategically float on the wearer, or her structural coats, which could be belted, folded, or flipped upside-down to create a myriad of different volumes and silhouettes. Sybilla’s clothes were the definition of “by women, for women,” and ran the gamut from comfortable and easy to sexy and confidence-inducing. So it was disheartening, to say the least, when the Sybilla dropped off the grid upon the sale of her brand in 2005.

“When I sold part of the company, I faced a huge deception with my new partners,” Sybilla admits. “Also, fashion was moving in a direction that I didn’t feel able to follow. I needed to step back and get perspective, and also get my strength back.”

Considering the fates of designers like John Galliano, Christophe Decarnin, and Alexander McQueen after they pushed themselves to the brink while trying to balance creative expression with relentless commercial demand, it’s admirable that Sybilla had enough foresight to take a break. During her time out of fashion’s blinding spotlight, Sybilla, as she tells it, “dedicated myself to help promote practices and people that offer solutions to today’s problems. We created a school in Mallorca and a foundation that works to turn utopias into reality. Agriculture and education are two of my biggest passions. We need to find better ways to grow our food, and better was to live in the world in general.”

Indeed, that lifestyle is a 180 from one centered around the Paris catwalks, but it seems to have done Sybilla well, because today, the designer is back producing stunning confections for the modern woman. From sculptural wool coats to Mondrian-esque dresses, her F/W ’15 range—the first since her return—is simultaneously sensual and protective. “In this Winter collection, there are a lot of cocoon shapes, protecting your vulnerability with sexy shields. This collection was created with the desire to serve and celebrate women,” she explains. “There are pieces that we call ‘chicken soup’ clothes, like comfort food clothes. They are meant to nourish and calm you with their shapes, colors, and textures. I try to create those magical moments when you know you look great, but you are also comfortable and reassured.”

Sybilla’s Mercer pop-up—which is open through October 31—was designed with this “chicken soup” mentality in mind. “I wanted to create an environment where women feel safe to play with the clothes, to discover the details, and to meet each other,” she says of the whitewashed space, which is garnished with photographs of the collection by Felix Valiente, and rugs that echo the palette of her F/W ’15 range. “That’s the most important part of the experience—how the clothes fit and make you feel, and getting the chance to make new friends.”

So, what can we expect from Sybilla in the future? “Right now, were are going step by step, inventing the way as we go,” says the designer. “I’m really enjoying opening temporary spaces in different cities—we’re like musicians on tour, reaching out and building our audience. I want to keep it honest, fun, and fresh. And I’m curious to discover what the future will bring…”

Sybilla is located at 25 Mercer Street, New York, NY and is open from 10am to 7pm through October 31

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