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Sonia Rykiel was a Parisian fashion label founded by the eponymous designer. Born in the Neuilly suburb of Paris, Sonia Rykiel started her label in 1962, selling sweaters and maternity dresses through her husband Sam's boutique. Known as the Queen of Knits, Rykiel made clothes with a quintessentially Parisian feel and a wit and a verve all her own. Sonia Rykiel catwalk presentations are known for a distinct sense of fun, with models eschewing a traditional expressionless parade for smiles and laughter. In 2009, Rykiel launched a range of underwear with international fashion chain H&M bringing her chic irreverent aesthetic to a much larger audience.
Rykiel having stepped down from designing in 2009, she was succeeded as artistic director by her daughter Natalie. The role passed to April Crichton and then to Canadian designer Geraldo da Conceicao in 2012. Julie de Libran took over the role during the following year.
Sonia Rykiel passed away in 2016, and a street was named after her in Paris in 2018.
In 2019, the Sonia Rykiel brand liquidated its operations.
So quintessential a Left Bank designer is Sonia Rykiel that the Café de Flore has named a sandwich in her honor. This queen of knits is self-taught, and she describes her method as off-the-cuff: “First, I made a dress because I was pregnant and I wanted to be the most beautiful pregnant woman,” Rykiel said in 2008, on the occasion of her company’s 40th anniversary. “Then I made a sweater”—the popular poor boy—“because I wanted to have one that wasn’t like anyone else’s.”
Rykiel opened shop on Rue de Grenelle in 1968, after designing for many years for Laura, her husband’s boutique. Along with Chloé, her label pioneered the créateur movement in France. She liked to design interchangeable separates with what one enraptured copywriter described as “that close-to-the-body, nothing-on fit.” She created her first “braless” dress in 1964; promoted the layered look; and popularized rainbow stripes, massive fur wraps, marabou, vintage-y dresses, and culottes.
In 1974, long before the Japanese and Belgians arrived in Paris, this black-clad, flame-haired designer was exposing seams, unhemming hems, and removing linings—in the process creating the démodé, or undone, look. “People said making clothes inside out was not proper,” Rykiel later told WWD…