A look back at Sonia Rykiel’s most iconic designs
Today we lost the queen of knits, stripes and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Sonia Rykiel. Though she was known for her iconic Poor Boy sweaters and flirtations with bows and colour, her stance as a young female businesswoman broadcast feminist messages far and wide. She got her start in the biz in the 1960s, when she couldn’t find clothes she liked to dress herself in. So she special-ordered some sweaters from Milan, via her husband’s vendors (he owned a store), and after many revisions her trademark pullover was born. When Elle put Francois Hardy wearing a Rykiel knit on its 1963 cover, and famous fans like Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Audrey Hepburn were spotted in her creations, her success soared. Her inaugural store was opened in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in 1968, adding to the eccentricity and style of Paris’s Left Bank.
Rykiel’s success only dwindled on the health front when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which she kept a secret for 15 years until it was no longer possible to hide. In 2012, she released a book called N’oubliez pas que je joue, translated roughly to Don’t Forget that I’m Acting, which she wrote about in the Guardian in 2012. Unlike her whimsical fashion sense, her view on life was very down to earth.
In the aforementioned Guardian piece, she comments on the perceptions others had of her throughout her disease: “I’m not brave, I’m not fantastic. I’m like any other woman. I’m unhappy. I’m difficult. I’m sad. Am I strong, too? Maybe, but not always. There are days when I don’t want to see anyone. The most important thing you learn? You can live with it…Of course it’s not easy. But what’s easy in today’s world?”
Rykiel’s strength of style and spirit will be sorely missed, but one thing is for sure: Her legacy remains in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and far, far beyond. Here, a look back at her brand’s most memorable striped designs.