The fashion world was devastated back in 2016, when the French designer known as ‘Queen of Knitwear’, Sonia Rykiel, died. Though her passing left the world in shock, she has left trails and marks of her brilliance, artistry, and devotion to fashion, particularly as her eponymous brand, Sonia Rykiel continued to make waves in the industry.
Ascent to fashion fame
A widely known story of a pregnant Rykiel back in 1960s started her career in design: she tried looking for a maternity dress she liked, but in vain. Her solution—make one for herself. Her husband owned a boutique named Laura, where her first few designed clothes were sold. Fashion icon Audrey Hepburn happened to chance upon the boutique and got herself 14 pieces of Rykiel’s design. It was somehow foretelling of how the world will react to her designs later on.
Not long after, she opened the first Sonie Rykiel boutique. She went out of the box and deviated from the strict and status-based haute couture in France at that time, leading a movement to shift into a more free and youthful style. Women were looking for that exact style, and along with Dorothée Bis, Yves Saint Laurent and Emmanuelle Khanh, Rykiel successfully reinvented the modern image and typified the bohemian look.
Knitwear and signature silhouette
Rykiel earned the title ‘Queen of Knitwear’ because through her knitwear designs on her label, she was able to change the world’s perspective on knitwear. Previously regarded as a dated medium or old-fashioned, the knitted design suddenly became a mark of youthfulness and current fashion craze. She brought those pieces to the glass displays of highly-loved New York stores, Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel, making her truly deserving of the title.
Aside from knitwear, the brand is also known for its fun silhouettes: higher armholes, narrow sleeves and cuts that are closer to the body. The playful and innovative artistry put into each piece made the brand famous for its reversed seams, pockets, and lockstitched hems. The light and witty designs were highly fashionable, too. Added with the designer’s favorite stripes, fur and shawls, covetable pieces reigned the label’s memorable runway shows.
Mark of a Sonia Rykiel unique piece
The brand’s ‘démode’ approach to style made it famous for being ‘un-fashion’, yet clearly, setting a new benchmark to where fashion could thrive. The ‘Poor Boy Sweater’ might sound drab, but it has charmed its way to the closets of fashionable women. The brand ventured into relaxed tailoring, too, mixing it with geometric layers for a more impactful look.
Despite discovering new fashion territories in household linens, men’s wear, shoes, children’s wear and fragrance, the label never lost its original spark—the emphasis on comfort and freedom, while still highlighting femininity of the body of a woman.
Colorful personality of its founder
While Sonia Rykiel had to let her daughter Natalie take her place as the new CEO and Artistic Director of the brand, later on as the new President, she still had her fun and interesting sidelines that showed her fun and colourful personality. On a Malcom McLaren album, Rykiel appeared singing a song entitled Who the Hell Is Sonia Rykiel?. She also had a cameo appearance on Robert Altman’s fashion exposé called Prêt-à-Porter (Ready to Wear), which was inspired by her own show.
Most fun of her individual projects was her novel, published in 1996 with a very interesting plot: it was a love triangle. Funny thing is, it didn’t involve three people, there was a man, a woman….and a sweater.
The name Sonia Rykiel has made impressive changes and progress in the fashion industry, and it was what the brand continued to uphold even after the death of the respected designer. The label continued to clothe famous people, from the time Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot and Francoise Hardy were fans of the brand, until today that is cater to modern famous customers such as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Naomi Watts.
The brand’s legacy continues, carrying with it the style and spirit of its founder and inspiration, creating more knitwear to amaze the fashion elites, adding more stripes to brighten its pieces, and rocking the runway with mind-blowing collections that are a testament to the spirit of a feminine woman.
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