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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