Sonia Rykiel: why she is a legend


She’s one of those women who help you become your own totally liberated woman. With a creative, intellectual, strong and refined mind like hers, you can change the world – as she’s proven to do. Sonia Rykiel is quick to impose her ideas, and she could care less about what anyone has to say. She does not follow fashion trends. One of her first creations led her to recognition in record time. Back in the ’60s, sweaters resembled Afghans more than jackets; they were tacky and formless. So a young Ms. Rykiel, wanting to dress how she saw fit, drew up plans for a sweater made from what she associated with a finer material – the jersey. This sweater, draping and highlighting the feminine form, turned the fashion world on its head. Her success was bewildering.

And as such, Sonia Rykiel only continues to surprise. She introduced stripes and revised styles from her past that had lost significance, like tracksuits and t-shirts. She thinks of “upside-down fashion” when showing her dressmaking. She works in luxury fashion, while at the same time associating with 3 Suisses (affordable mail order e-retailer).

Why does she still work with matte and sweaters, which have, for the most part, been discarded by dressmakers? Reminiscent of Coco Chanel, who finally liberated women from the corset, Sonia Rykiel also helped women do away with tight, curved and supported suits. She created a chic, casual style in a true Parisian fashion.

In her own words: “I dreamt of wearing clothes that separated me from the flock… to be the one about whom they say, ‘Oh, she’s so beautiful, smart!’ So I thought about making clothes that I would like”.

The charm of great people is in how they capture the talents around them and enjoy the creative effervescent of one era in order to start a new one. For Sonia Rykiel, this meant staying on top of movements: “It was the spirit of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 1970s. There were my writer friends; I would hang around with editors, intellectuals who went to La Hune bookshop, at the Flora, the Lipp. There were artists, César, Salvador Dali, gallery owners, designers… It was a huge melting pot of ideas. You could invent. You could go there!”

She was both influenced and did the influencing. After her, Jean-Paul Gautier made sweater-dresses and stripes. Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs make heaps of sweaters, and Vivienne Westwood works extensively with matte.

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