Date
22 September 2017
Sonia Rykiel helped revolutionise Parisian fashion in the 1970s and 1980s with her colorful knitwear and sophisticated creations. Photo: WSJ
Sonia Rykiel helped revolutionise Parisian fashion in the 1970s and 1980s with her colorful knitwear and sophisticated creations. Photo: WSJ

French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel dies at 86

French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, whose sophisticated, playful designs and colorful knitwear helped redefine Parisian luxury in the 1970s and 1980s, has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, the Wall Street Journal reports.

She was 86.

Rykiel’s death was confirmed by the office of French President François Hollande on Thursday. A statement released by the Élysée Palace called her a pioneer.

After opening her first boutique in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris’s Left Bank in 1968, Rykiel made a name for herself creating upscale ready-to-wear pieces—particularly sweaters—with an eccentric touch.

Colorful stripes and unfinished hems became a trademark of her easygoing modern femininity.

“She invented not only a style, but also an attitude, a way of living and being, and offered women a freedom of movement,” the Élysée statement said.

Born Sonia Flis in Paris in May 1930, the red-haired Rykiel showed a flair for color from the start, with an early job as a window dresser.

In the 1960s, working with her then-husband Sam Rykiel, her knitwear captured the tone of those raucous times and her fan base grew.

Françoise Hardy wore a pink, red and black striped sweater on the cover of Elle in 1963.

Other early fans included Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot.

“She was a grande dame of fashion,” said Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière, chief curator at Les Arts Décoratifs, the Paris museum of decorative arts.

The museum featured an exhibition on Rykiel in 2008.

“She created a style that responded to needs,” said Ms. Carron de la Carrière, noting that it was the designer’s business sense that set her apart.

Rykiel’s catalog helped her reach a wide audience in the pre-Internet days, and later, so did her collaboration with H&M.

“The idea in the 1960s of making fashion accessible in a democratic manner might not seem revolutionary today, but it was an enormous change,” said Carron de la Carrière.

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