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Rykiel, Sonia

fashion french paris knits

B. 1930

Birthplace: Paris, France

Awards: Oscar for Contributions to the Fashion Industry, Fashion Group International, 1986
         Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, French Minister of Culture, 1993
         Award for Design Excellence, Chicago Historical Society’s Costume Committee, 1994
         Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, French Minister of Culture, 1996

Sonia Rykiel, the “Queen of Knits,” began designing slim, sophisticated knitwear in 1962 when she was pregnant and unable to find soft sweater-like maternity clothes. The rest, as they say, is fashion history.

Rykiel turned French fashion upside down when she first introduced her knitwear ensembles. Known for her sleek and fluid knits, including shrunken poor boys, wide trousers, and cardigan sweaters with raglan sleeves, Rykiel has built an empire that has even been the subject of a song, “Who in the Hell Is Sonia Rykiel?” by Malcolm McClaren, as well as a film, Prêt á Porter by Robert Altman.

She trims her knits with marabou, creates rhinestone bras to be worn under long knitted coats, and puts fox stoles over tiny striped sweaters; whatever she creates, “Coco Rykiel,” as she is called by some, does it with complete devotion. From the opening of her first boutique in 1968 in the Saint Germain-des-Pres area of Paris to being the first to offer designer clothing by mail, this author, interior designer, and illustrator has enjoyed over thirty years of international fame.

Rykiel’s approach to fashion is playful, unexpected, and witty. She mixes and matches and shows clothing with seams on the outsides of her garments. She puts velvet in her jogging togs and Lurex in her loungewear. She has “dressed” the rooms of hotels and hospitals (Hôtel de Crillon, Hôtel Lutetia, and the American Hospital of Paris); she has created costumes for the theater; and she has recorded albums and appeared in film. Her licensed products include a Laguiole knife, stationery, fragrances, ties, eyeglasses, watches, and porcelain dinnerware. In addition, she has written five books, including a novel, and she is an active member of the Association of Women Writers.

Her boutiques around the world feature not only her irreverent and irresistible women’s wear, but also a children’s line, Sonia Rykiel Enfant, and a men’s line, Rykiel Homme. In 1999 she celebrated thirty years in fashion. It should come as no surprise that the Pierre Guillot rosaries has created the Sonia Rykiel Rose, a tribute to one of the true flowers of French fashion.

S.O.S. Titanic [next] [back] Rydberg, Johannes (Robert)

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