“I realised that beauty was nudity. I wanted women wearing sweaters to have the impression that they were naked. The idea wasn’t to impose outfits but to stay as close as possible to women’s bodies for their freedom of movement.” – Sonia Rykiel
As the design world this mourns the loss of iconic French designer Sonia Rykiel, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to look back at her colourful life. There’s no doubt that this designer signature Parisian-woman-look influenced many designers during her career, which spanned close to 50 years.
The designer was born in the upmarket Paris suburb of Neuilly in 1930 as the eldest of five daughters to a Romanian watchmaker father and a Polish mother. She started her career as a window dresser at 17 and had no formal designs training.
It was motherhood that put her on the path of fashion design by designing knit maternity dresses for herself. she went on to create knit garments for her husband’s boutique, called Laura.
She had made her breakthrough in 1962 with the so-called Poor Boy Sweater, a garment designed for women that had long sleeves and a shorter, fitted shape. Audrey Hepburn herself was so impressed that she sought out her boutique in Paris after seeing one of the designer’s “poor boy” sweaters on the cover of Elle, and bought 5 of them on the spot.
She became a fixture of the Paris fashion scene starting in 1968 when she opened her first ready-to-wear shop on the Left Bank at a time when student riots were challenging France’s bourgeoisie establishment.
In 2009, she was awarded The Order of Légion d’Honneur in recognition of her 40 years of service in the French fashion industry.
More recently, you might remember in 2010 she designed a knitwear collection for H&M.
This autumn/winter, her legacy extends beyond fashion to beauty with a Lancôme collaboration. Look for pretty colours worthy of a haute Parisians and playful compacts we’ll never want to throw away.
Even if you’re not familiar with her designs, there no doubt Sonia Rykiel made an impact in the world of fashion. So RIP and thank you for your contribution.