“I invented an image, a paper woman written in the folds of fabric, the yarn of knits, the colours of flesh, I gave her outward signs of luxury, happiness, a modern wrapping, a day-by-day destiny, a pure outline with smudges, a story.”
— Sonia Rykiel
With a sweater, Sonia Rykiel created a signature. She declared black a colour. Even her red hair became an icon. Saint-Germain-des-Prés, an area of Paris was reconsecrated under her tenancy as the home of a certain allure, of left-bank cool.
Crowned the “Queen of Knitwear” by Women’s Wear Daily in 1967, Rykiel conquered fashion by twisting it to her own ends. She invented la démode, or “unfashion”, transgressing the established codes of garment construction and the notion of ‘total look’: stripping out linings, leaving edges raw, turning stitches inside-out, even forsaking hems. The Rykiel woman was established - a Parisienne on the move, sensual and independent, walking, inspired by Alberto Giacometti. Stripes, inner pockets and strass or sequin trompe l’oeil became the recognisable codes of the house.
Sonia Rykiel’s style was inseparable from a passion for words, the ones the designer used to illuminate sweaters, which she recomposed in her books, from “Je la voudrais nue” [“And I Would Like Her Nude”] (Grasset, 1979) to “N’oubliez pas que je joue” [“Don’t forget I’m playing”] (L’Iconoclaste, 2012).