They said/We said: Sonia Rykiel reveals she has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years

Photography by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images
Photography by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Paris’s longtime queen of knitwear Sonia Rykiel revealed today that she has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years. The reveal comes direct from Rykiel’s just-released-in-France book N’Oubliez Pas Que Je Joue (translation: Don’t Forget It’s a Game) co-authored by French journalist Judith Perrignon. Rykiel had decided to speak out because she could no longer mask the symptoms of the degenerative disorder.

In the book, Rykiel assigns the code ”P de P” (“Putain de Parkinson” or “bitch of Parkinson’s” in English) to the disease, amidst frank writing about living with it. She reveals that for years, her colleagues at her fashion house (which her daughter Nathalie took helm of in 1995) helped keep the secret by attempting to prevent photographs from being taken of her using her walking cane. “I don’t want to show my pain. I resisted, I hesitated, I tried to be invisible, to pretend that nothing was wrong. It’s impossible; it’s not like me,” she writes.

Whether it was done to hide her pain or an attempt to protect her resilient image, the sad secret couldn’t have been easy to keep. We applaud Rykiel’s bravery and hope her story will help raise awareness to the importance of finding a cure to make Parkinson’s a thing of the past.


Huffington Post: “The book, co-written by French journalist Judith Perrignon, will shed light on the secret despite Rykiel’s long-held resistance. As Perrignon writes (and we roughly translated), “I force [open] the door quietly of her memories, I am interfering between her and her character […] It’s time to tell her secret, to explain what prevents it, why she trembles and hides. All her life, she played with the truth, she can not speak for it. That is why I’m here.” [Huffington Post]

Fashionista: “Though the 81-year-old designer appeared increasingly frail in public, it seems very few knew of her struggle with Parkinson’s.” [Fashionista]


Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief: “Sonia Rykiel was deemed the queen of knitwear by WWD back in 1970, just two years after she launched her label. She seemed to have an instinctive talent for branding both herself and her products, long before branding became a marketing buzzword. That makes me wonder whether she kept her secret so long because she didn’t want to show her pain, as she says, or because there was something about her image she was trying to protect.”

More Style