On teaching fashion: death of the legendary Sonia Rykiel

Today’s post is dedicated to the legendary Sonia Rykiel who has just passed away on 25th August 2016 in Paris, at the ripe age of 86. She will be greatly missed.

She once said: “We are working women. Also, we have the problem of children, of men, to take care of our houses, so many things. I try to explain that in my clothes. They are clothes for everyday life.”

And this was her concept of clothes. She reflected a beautiful working mother and wife, pregnant perhaps, and always dressed chic but a tad rebellious. She was a liberator of women, similar to Coco Chanel some time before her, showing that all life-stages of femininity are something to be proud of and that fabrics can be used to accentuate that.

Image source here. Sonia Rykiel with her signature flaming red hair.

I quote the New York Times on her achievements:

“She was best known for raising old-fashioned knitwear to flattering new and practical designs: figure-hugging skirts and sweaters, especially ribbed pullovers with high armholes that made the shoulders seem smaller, torsos narrower and legs longer.

The news media called them “poor boy” sweaters. They made the cover of Elle, and they were snapped up by Anouk Aimée, Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve and Lauren Bacall, among others.

Two French presidents conferred the Legion of Honor, the nation’s highest award, on Ms. Rykiel. She was as recognizable to many Parisians as were the politicians in the Élysée Palace: a dramatic, sparrowlike woman, always in black, with a pale powdered face engulfed in a mass of titian hair and bangs that fell to heavily mascaraed green eyes. She looked a bit like Édith Piaf, France’s national chanteuse […]”

In 2010, Sonia Rykiel collaborated with H&M to bring her signature designs to everyone at a reasonable price. I remember rushing to the store (despite having the flu) to get a sweater and a beret, because my friend insisted that it would be sold out immediately.


Sonia Rykiel x H&M, 2010 – Image source here.

Of course, no one can live forever, but luckily history does.

It is therefore so utterly important to preserve it and remember it. In this context we should make sure that our students are aware of the great talents who have shaped and defined fashion over several decades.

My question to you is thus: Do you remind your students of fashion legends? Do you have them incorporate elements into their projects that are based on the unique styles of past creatives? I am curious to hear your thoughts!

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