25 Aug

‘Queen of Knitwear’ Sonia Rykiel Dies at 86

French designer Sonia Rykiel has died at the age of 86. Rykiel’s daughter, who was named president of the Sonia Rykiel brand in 2007, announced the sad news Thursday morning. She fought the Parkinson’s disease for 15 years now.


Sonia Rykiel was a very important designer in the history of fashion in general. At times where women were supposed to only wear sombre tones and skirts, she was one of the first designers to encourage women to wear trousers. The French designer also invented the “poor boy” sweaters and was seen as one of the pioneers who carve out Paris as a major player on the modern fashion map. Often compared to Coco Chanel, Sonia Rykiel told women to be eccentric, seductive, mysterious and to create their own style. Because, after all, that’s what fashion is all about!

It all started when she couldn’t find anything to wear that would make her stand out from the crowd. So Rykiel started designing women’s clothes herself at her husband’s ready to wear boutique ‘Laura’. She was also named ‘Queen of Knitwear’, among other names, by the American press.

Parkinson’s Disease

As we said before, the disease wasn’t new to the designer. S. Rykiel was already fighting it for 15 years! At first she just kept working and went on with her life, as she said in an exclusive interview to The Guardian in 2012. “It didn’t affect me too much at first. You couldn’t tell at the time that I was ill just by looking at me, so I managed to go on for  a while like that, keeping it to myself.” She went on like that until 2007, when she had to pass the role of president of the Sonia Rykiel brand onto her daughter.

The Parisian designer wrote a book about dealing with her illness, named N’oubliez Pas Que Je Joue [Don’t forget that I’m acting]. She always was very humorous about the illness, calling it “Putain de Parkinson’s”. Despite the illness, Rykiel remained very involved with her fashion brand until her death.

Photo credits: ShowStudio, Andy Warhol



Sonia Rykiel, Ensemble, photographed by Peter Knapp for ELLE, 1971


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