Yesterday the fashion industry lost an icon. The French fashion designer and writer died from the effects of Parkinson’s after being diagnosed with it almost 20 years ago.
The ‘Queen of Knits’ was mostly famed for her designs and books, but she is also credited with helping women and society evolve.
Sonia Rykiel’s fashion career started after she married boutique-owner, Sam Rykiel. In 1962, she was unable to find nice-looking maternity clothes, which lead her to use an Italian clothing supplier to create a dress and a sweater which clinged to the body and had high-cut armholes. The Poor Boy Sweater was born.
After her friends started buying it, Rykiel started selling them in her husband’s shop. Success didn’t stop there: the sweater appeared on the cover of French Elle magazine and Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn bought 14 sweaters in every colour. After Sam Rykiel helped her establish her own company, she opened her first store in 1968.
As well as being credited with the creation of the ‘all-black everything’ trend, Rykiel was the innovator of various techniques including: using slogans on sweaters, leaving hems unfinished and putting seams outside the garment.
A fashion show celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sonia Rykiel brand in October 2008 saw 30 fashion designers make tribute to the legend, including: Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, with their versions of the ‘Rykiel woman’.
Rykiel was a woman of many extraordinary talents. In 1979 her novel, Et Je La Voudrais Nue (I Would Like Her Naked) was published. She also teamed up with journalist Judith Perrignon to co-author N’oubliez pas que je joue (Don’t forget it’s a game).
In 1995, she collaborated with Malcolm McLaren on the song ‘Who The Hell Is Sonia Rykiel?’ for his album, Paris.
After attending a Sonia Rykiel ready-to-wear show, Robert Altman was inspired to make the film Prêt-à-Porter. The lead character was also based on Rykiel and played by Annouk Aimee. Sonia Rykiel makes a cameo appearance in the film.
Her career was one of pure success and she leaves an extraordinary legacy. It is with great sadness to say, R.I.P. to the Queen of Knits.