Portrait Pierre Even.
The great Sonia Rykiel has left us. Emotions are running high in the fashion world because more than anyone else the iconic redhead of Saint-Germain-des-Prés knew how to imbue her creations with a lust for life that transformed everything she touched into instants of pure sparkling joy, light as a champagne bubble. Irreverent, flamboyant and utterly unique, the women who claimed to wear no underwear with her famous second skin pull-overs she called “Poor Boy Sweaters” approached fashion like a gift for confident, liberated and independent women, just like her. “By putting holes instead of sleeves, by getting rid of hems, adding slogans to sweaters and by having the stitching on the outside I realised I was actually in the middle of writing a story: that of a women of May 1968 [moment of civil upheaval in France]” she told Numéro magazine a few years back.
Her need to celebrate and liberate the female body inspired designer Jean Paul Gaultier to do a cheeky portrait of her enhanced with the words “Et je la voudrais nue. Et je te voudrais nue” [And I want it nude. And I want you nude]. Words always accompanied her because it was as a writer (she wrote a dozen books) and her passion for books allowing her to live her life so completely, that Sonia Rykiel designed clothes, making it an “art of the times”. “In Saint Germain des Prés there are book stores, cinemas, cafes and there’s Sonia Rykiel, who puts books in her shop windows amidst her dresses just like in a film, who knows what’s behind there,” Isabelle Huppert said about her in “La Femme Rykiel” a collective work published in 2008.
Season after season, from her kingdom in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the petulant redhead imaged this Rykiel woman as an utterly universal being, contrasting Parisian black with multi-colour stripes and rhinestones, a woman just like her described by writer Dan Franck as, “… serious and elegant, tumultuous, passionate and charmingly seductive. She is a dream in velour. A dizzying dancer, the light of Paris - her city - walking majestically in black, a book in hand, a smile on her lips, a burning spirit.” Muse as much as designer, she inspired another writer Ivry Giltis who wrote, “Sonia – the sun made woman, hair blowing in the wind, an echo in infinite valleys, eye, ear and heart, an eternal figure.” And in the words of Philippe Stark, “She is a straight line that leads to elegance,” With her departing this straight line that she drew like a short cut from the mind to the heart, from the mind to the body now links earth to heaven. As Babeth Djian concludes, “The most iconic red star in fashion will now shine in the sky.”
By Delphine Roche