While the fashion world mourns the loss of designer Sonia Rykiel, it is only fitting that we honor her with a look back at visionary catwalk moments. As someone who broke onto the scene – and some would argue broke the scene – in the late 1960s, her designs shook up the French style. Rykiel brought quirky, artistic and seductive styles that captivated the city.
Her witty aesthetic was something that she never failed to show off and was evident at a fashion show in March 1980, which saw her exuding a glamorously kitsch cabaret vibe. Before color blocking was made popular by numerous brands, Rykiel experimented with the trend — with success— and even featured stripy prints (above, although that is from a more recent season).
While she worked with palettes of blacks, whites, blues and charcoals, she livened up the designs with jolts of red. She loved to take risks and her Spring/Summer 1994 fashion show featured supermodel Helena Christensen wearing both trends simultaneously with a cape and a wraparound bikini top (below). Her menswear designs were just as bold when it came to mixing up colors and prints.
Though she was famous for her inventive statement sweaters that earned her the moniker “Queen of knitwear”, Rykiel was always pushing boundaries with designs such as transparent lace turtlenecks. In 1997, the designer incorporated animal prints into the mix for a wild collection.
The late 1990s saw her focus on fur as a way of encompassing her sensual, fun, luxe and cozy aesthetic. Her Autumn/Winter 1998 show featured snuggly cardigans worn open over knitted bras (below) — the perfect contradiction. The furs gradually became more colorful, resulting in a range of richly-dyed snugs for Autumn/Winter 2001.
Along with the slim and comfortable knits, Rykiel always included her love for cabaret and bright stripes that soon became a signature. The designer also incorporated slinky nightclub feels into collections with the help of theatrical hats that were seen in her runway show for Spring/Summer 2002.
While statement pieces helped bring her work to the attention of the world, daywear was just as important to the brand. The label continued to do a roaring trade in those ironic-looking printed sweaters such as the one seen in the Autumn/Winter 2002 show, and a trio of identical menswear knits from the Autumn/Winter 2003 collection.
Yet despite perfecting the playful touch, adding girlish ribbons to this wrap knit from Spring/Summer 2004, a head-to-toe fur and beret combination (above) from her Fall 2004 collection shows Rykiel at her very best — that is, when living up to her deserved name as the impossibly glamorous and quintessentially enigmatic Parisienne.