Newsmaker Of The Week: Sonia Rykiel

Our Newsmaker this week is Sonia Rykiel.

The pioneer of Parisian womenswear died aged 86 in the early hours of Thursday morning at her home in Paris.

A visionary and fashion legend she was born Sonia Flis in May 1930. With no formal training at the age of 17 she started out her career as a window dresser at the Parisian textile store, the Grande Maison de Blanc. In 1968 she established her namesake first store on Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris's Left Bank.

In a time when women's clothing was restricted by tradition Rykiel's quintessential 'French Girl' designs became a hit and was beloved by everyone including celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot. Her striking striped designs and fitted 'poor boy' sweater was instantly recognizable and earned her the nickname 'queen of knitwear'.

Rykiel wrote several books including an A to Z of fashion and a collection of children's stories. She had a 15-year battle with Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological condition. She initially kept her diagnosis private but made it public in 2012 in a book entitled 'N'oubliez pas que je joue' when her symptoms became too difficult to disguise.

In 1994 she played herself in Robert Altman's satire 'Pret-a-Porter'. She stepped down from her role as CEO and artistic director in 1995 but remained close to the label, serving as honorary president. Rykiel's daughter who began modelling for the house in 1975 eventually became its managing and artistic director in 1995. In 2009, Rykiel was appointed a commander of the Legion d'Honneur - the highest French order for civilians.

She will be remembered as a visionary typifying a new generation of designers who launched their own labels outside the established system of haute couture.

For more on Sonia Ryliel be sure to check out her profile on FMD and check back next week to find out who our next Newsmaker is.

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