Sonia Rykiel, Queen of the Knit, died in August this year at 86; although her designs may not have made their way into your wardrobe her influence certainly has. She was a trailblazer for the style of the modern woman. She influenced so many brands and designers who embraced the concept of knitted dressing head to toe: Donna Karan and Azzedine Alaia and indeed Winser London. The legacy she left was the idea that one can use a myriad different types and weights of jersey and knit instead of traditional cut-and-sew tailored dressing that was almost the only style on offer in the 60s. Rykiel hated the clothes available at the beginning of the 60s so she set to work making figure-hugging jersey that she sold in a boutique owned by her husband. Her first sweater was featured in Elle magazine in 1963, worn by the teenage pop star Francoise Hardy. In the spirit of the times, she favoured inside-out stitching, no hem and no lining; quite radical for the times. She created knitted sweater dresses in coloured matelôt stripes, she embellished berets with rhinestones and added quirky additions like wool ruffles and knitted bows. Black was her signature colour but in her collections she stunned with bright electric blue and fuchsia pink. Her catwalk shows were magical, imbued with gaiety when sulky was more the norm. Interestingly for a designer, she believed size was of no importance and insisted that her clothes did not look better on skinny girls. Rykiel believed that what counted was attitude and to have a philosophy. Rykiel was more than a fashion designer; she received many awards, was drawn by Jean Cocteau and Andy Warhol and she also published several books.
By Vanessa de Lisle - www.thefashioncupboard.com