French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel dies aged 86

Thu Aug 25, 2016 6:08pm EDT
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By Astrid Wendlandt

PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel died on Thursday at the age of 86, mourned by President Francois Hollande as an inventor of "an attitude, a way of life".

Rykiel was a rare women at the top of a world dominated in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s by men such as Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, inspiring female self-empowerment through her tongue-in-cheek style, notably brightly striped sweater dresses.

"It is a sad day but Sonia Rykiel leaves behind her an extraordinary legacy," Jean-Marc Loubier, chairman and chief executive of First Heritage Brands, parent company of the Sonia Rykiel label, told Reuters.

"She was a pioneer who helped women and society evolve."

Instantly recognizable by her bushy red hair, Rykiel founded her fashion house in the literary Paris quarter Saint-Germain des Prés in 1968, when France was rocked by violent student riots, aiming to counter stiff, bourgeois dress codes, with inside-out stitches and extra-short skirts.

Early adopters of her tightly fitting sweater dresses included actresses Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Audrey Hepburn.

"I wanted to make a sweater for a specific woman – myself," she wrote in her 2012 memoir "N'oubliez pas que je joue" ("Don't forget that I am acting").

"(I) couldn't find the clothes I had in mind for a woman of 30 who has come home from work to go to the theater and then wants to go out for dinner afterwards."   Continued...

French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel attends a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo