Sonia Rykiel

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Sonia Rykiel, maiden name, Sonia Flis (French pronunciation: ​[sɔn.ja ʁi.kjɛl]; 25 May 1930 - 25 August 2016) was a French fashion designer.


Sonia Rykiel was born in Neuilly, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, the eldest of five daughters of a Russian mother and a Romanian father. Her father was a watchmaker. At the age of 17, she was employed to dress the window displays in a Parisian textile store. In 1953, Sonia married Sam Rykiel, owner of a boutique selling elegant clothing. They had two children, but eventually divorced.

Rykiel revealed that she has been afflicted with Parkinson's Disease for many years.

Fashion career

In 1962, unable to find soft sweaters to wear during her pregnancy, she used one of her husband's suppliers from Venice to design her own sweaters. Rykiel thereafter created her first maternity dresses and a tiny sweater, called the Poor Boy Sweater, which she started selling from her husband's label "Laura". The Poor Boy Sweater made the cover of ELLE fashion magazine, and brought Rykiel fame; because of it, she was crowned "Queen of Knits" by the Americans in 1967.

She later became the first designer to put seams on the outside of a garment, and to print words on her sweaters. In particular, she favours long clinging sweaters or small cropped pullovers, large rolled-back cuffs and long shawls. Her color palette usually features beige, grey, dark blue, and charcoal. She has also created a range of fragrances of which '7e Sens' was the first.

In 1977, she is the first designer to create clothes for the mail order "Les 3 Suisses".

In 1980, Rykiel was voted one of the world's 10 most elegant women. Rykiel also hit upon the trend of big, soft, fun fur done as a huge bubble of color - in her case baby pink, purple knitted fox or teal-blue Mongolian lamb. During Paris Fashion Week in October 2003, Sonia Rykiel showed her own collection for next spring which included ruffled dresses in vintage floral and polka dot prints, and houndstooth coats.

In 1995, her daughter Nathalie Rykiel is appointed Artistic Director and CEO of the brand. Than in 2007 she became President of Sonia Rykiel.

In 2008, a special fashion show celebrating the brand’s 40th birthday pays tribute to Sonia Rykiel. The thirtiest most influential fashion designers in the world offer their vision of the Rykiel woman, by creating an outfit representing her ; all of their designs close the celebratory fashion show organized by Nathalie Rykiel at the parc de Saint-Cloud. On this occasion the brand and its designs are put forward at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, from the 20st of november 2008 to the 20 of april 2009, in the exhibition "Sonia Rykiel Exhibition" curated by Olivier Saillard.
In December 2009, Rykiel and H&M introduced "Sonia Rykiel pour H&M", two masstige operations with the Swedish retailer.  An event was held at the Grand Palais in Paris to celebrate the collection.
In 2012, Fung Brands, an investment company backed by Hong Kong billionaires Victor and William Fung, acquired 80 percent of Sonia Rykiel, with the Rykiel family retaining a 20 percent stake.In 2014, Julie de Libran becomes the artistic director of Sonia Rykiel.

Nathalie Rykiel remains, to this day, consultant of the brand.

Published works

Rykiel has written several books, including an A to Z of fashion, and a collection of children’s stories.


Rykiel collaborated with impresario and performer Malcolm McLaren on the song "Who the Hell is Sonia Rykiel?" on McLaren's 1995 album Paris.

Malcolm McLaren   Who the Hell is Sonia Rykiel


Rykiel made brief appearances in Robert Altman's "Prêt-a-Porter" (1994) and the 2010 film Bill Cunningham's New York.


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