Sonia Rykiel began her label in the late 1960s, sewing jumpers for herself when she was pregnant. By the early 1970s, she was operating at the heart of a new Ready-To-Wear revolution that was happening in Paris. Rykiel operated outside of the haute-couture system, instead focusing her attention on wearable, playful designs that spoke to women who wanted sexual and philosophical freedom, and clothes that allowed them to pursue their goals. “I wanted to make a sweater for a specific woman–myself–because I wanted to dress differently, but couldn’t find the clothes I had in mind for a woman of 30 who has come home from work to go to the theatre and then wants to go out for dinner afterwards,” she told The Guardian.
Women’s Wear Daily declared Rykiel the “Queen of Knits” as early as 1972, responding to the hype around her “poor boy sweater”, a shrunken jumper she made with resources from her husband’s business. “The little jumper became a symbol of the 1970s. It was the alter ego to the pair of jeans” said daughter Nathalie.
Her unique style, la Démode, was a movement that pre-empted an age where women were no longer slaves to trends and passing fads. Instead, Rykiel created a label for women to dress for themselves: her designs transcended a particular season.
The label’s aesthetic has become synonymous with splashes of colour, stripes and knits whilst encompassing romantic blouses, lingerie and perfume as well. Throughout, the emancipated ethos of brand pervades and Sonia Rykiel’s loyal following of fans spans the great and the good of the industry–from Kendall Jenner and Michelle Obama to Françoise Hardy and Audrey Hepburn.
The flame of this fiery haired visionary will be cherished and remembered throughout the industry.