Sonia Rykiel

The fashion designer Sonia Rykiel

Today brings the sad news that much-loved French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel has passed away at the age of 86 after a 15-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Her daughter Nathalie announced that "my mother died at 05:00 this morning at her home in Paris from the effects of Parkinson's." Later, President Francoise Hollande called her "a poineer." Often compared to Coco Chanel, she was one of France’s most successful designers. Here’s why.

Her clothes were liberating

Rykiel opened her first store in Paris in 1968 and was immediately loved by women of the time for her liberating designs. She encouraged women to wear trousers (still not particularly commonplace at the time) and designed clever tops that could be worn without bras.

Sonia Rykiel in 1975

She encouraged individuality

The Sonia Rykiel manifesto was that she wanted “women to be eccentric, seductive, mysterious, and to create their own style”. Her catwalk shows managed to be both quirky and familiar at the same time, making this manifesto seem easy to achieve. Just pop on a jaunty beret or pop a striped long sleeve under a plain short sleeve and you were good to go.

Naomi Campbell walking on the catwalk at Sonia Rykiel in 1998

She was the ‘Queen of Stripes’

You’d be hard pushed to find a Sonia Rykiel collection without any stripes in it. What’s not to love about that? And we're not just talking the classic navy and white Breton; think bright clashing colours like this acid green and navy shown on the catwalk in 2000.

Sonia Rykiel's signature stripes on the catwalk in 2000

She dressed the best stars

Early in her career her fans included Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn, and was more recently loved by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Bosworth, Selena Gomez and Suki Waterhouse.

Kate Bosworth wearing Sonia Rykiel

Her 40th anniversary show was amazing

In 2008, Rykiel’s catwalk show finished with a surprise homage to herself, courtesy of her daughter Nathalie – 30 designers including John Paul Gaultier, Rodarte and Martin Margiela (whose crazy red-hair frock you can see below) had created catwalk looks inspired by her signature style. Many fashion journalists cited it as the most fun event they'd ever been to at Paris fashion week.

Martin Margiela's creation at Sonia Rykiel's 40th anniversary show in 2008

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Sonia, we will miss you.