sonia rykiel, the queen of knits
We get down to the knitty-gritty with the red-headed vixen herself.
With her beautiful shock of red hair and fabulous knitwear Sonia Rykiel has been keeping fashion warm for over 50 years. It all started back in 1962, when a pregnant Rykiel, unable to find a knit soft enough for her baby bump, decided to design her own. Four years later she established the Sonia Rykiel company and set up her first boutique on the Left Bank in Paris. Famed for her deliciously chunky, super-soft designs, Rykiel regularly experiments with stripes, rhinestones, slogans, 'torn' hems, and inside out seams. The archetype of French chic, she sends her models giggling and skipping down the catwalk, and has maintained an unwavering passion for her profession. Today Geraldo da Conceicao is Creative Director and the Rykiel brand incorporates childrenswear, menswear, cosmetics and accessories. Yet Sonia is more than just a fashion designer she is also a successful fashion and children's book writer. Here she meets up with i-D to discuss her latest literary endeavour, her love for Paris and what every woman should own...
Hi Sonia, in the fashion industry you are known as the 'Queen of Knits', who would you pick to be your 'King'?
Jean Paul Gaultier... I love him. I love what he is doing and what he brings to fashion. I feel close to him as we are both quirky.
You are the undisputed master of striped sweaters, what are your favourite colour combinations?
I love grey with all kinds of black. I also love beige, black and red, and beige, black and blue.
You were voted one of the most elegant women in the world, who else do you think has timeless style?
What do you believe defines style in a woman?
Style is unique, every woman has her own style, but for me, the definition of style is someone who turns heads in a crowd. By the shadow, the trace she leaves when she walks, stands, speaks...
What three things do you believe every woman should own?
Every woman needs love, nice hair and a positive attitude.
Your catwalk shows are renowned for their youthful, playful approach, with the models smiling and giggling, is this a reflection of how you want women to feel when they wear your clothes?
I always try to tell the girls that during the 15 minutes of the show, the audience should forget everything. They should forget personal worries, politics, environmental problems, world crisis, everything... except the happiness of the show.
If we were to visit you in Paris where would you take us?
I'd take you to eat at Café de Flore or Lipp in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for after dinner drinks we would go to the Hemingway bar at the Ritz Hotel, or the bar at the Crillon Hotel, which I designed. Then if you wished to dance we would return to my place with my friends, or perhaps in summer take a walk along the Seine.
Where would you take us to capture the essence of Paris?
The Eiffel Tower, Saint Germain des Pres, or the old part of the Marais.
You find a lot of inspiration in literature, which authors have been particularly important to you?
All the Russian and French classic authors such as Tolstoy, Pushkin, Chekhov, Racine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and also some writers of today. I particularly like Paul Auster, Russell Banks and Philip Roth.
Since 1979 you have written nine books yourself, how do you find the time?
I wake myself up very early. I love writing!
Does writing satisfy something you don't get from fashion?
No, it is something entirely different. I love fashion and I love to write. Each subject discipline develops the other. Fashion and literature are both complementary. My style is a result of my love of literature and vice versa.
Are you planning to write any more books in the future?
At the moment I am working on a project for next year.
You famously 'fell' into fashion, when you were a young what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actress or an airhostess or simply a mother.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry today?
It is a lot of work. You have to be 200% focused and be passionate, very passionate...
Who is your ultimate i-Con?
All intelligent women.
If you could do it all again, is there anything you would do differently?
Not at all. I am sure today there are things I could do in another way but I still wouldn't change a thing.
Text Holly Shackleton