Influential French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel has died at age 86.
According to her family, she passed away at home at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. Rykiel died of Parkinson’s disease, her daughter Nathalie, told Agence France Presse. The designer revealed she suffered from the illness in her 2012 book, N’oubliez Pas Que Je Joue.
Widely considered the “Queen of Knitwear,” the distinctively red-headed Rykiel was born in Paris in 1930 to a French father and Romanian mother. She began as a window-dresser at 18, going on to operate a boutique, and then found her own design house in 1968.
Embodying the casual fashion attitudes of Paris’s Left Bank, the creator of “démodé” or “out of fashion fashion” built an empire based on comfortable clothing, dressing fashion icons like Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Onassis and Lauren Bacall.
A devout and gentle feminist, Rykiel was a force and spokesperson for women in France’s male-dominated fashion world, and was elected Vice President of the garment industry’s governing body, the Chambre Syndicale, in 1973.
A great reader, lover of literature, and a privately humorous woman, Rykiel appeared as herself in Robert Altman’s 1994 comedy Prêt-à-porter (Ready To Wear) and Altman frequently credited Rykiel (who also served as the film’s Creative Consultant) for its inspiration.
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