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The name of Sonia Rykiel and the memory of her as part of the radical counter-culture of the 1960s lives on. And how! For the late designer’s name is now on a plaque in a street on Paris’s Left Bank.
‘Allée Sonia Rykiel, 1930-2016, Créatrice de Mode’ immortalised her name and brought family and friends together with Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Sonia’s daughter Nathalie Rykiel gave a moving speech.
But the event was not just a walk down memory lane. Current designer Julie de Libran presented a collection for Spring/Summer 2019 which embraced the brand legacy of knitwear and street-smart casuals. It also added a current eco-conscious feel, as the street is known for its weekend ‘bio’ – the French term for organic – market.
“Tonight is all about celebrating the street – I wanted it to feel like the mood of the Saint-Germain-des-Près and that woman with the ease and freedom to wear what she wants and to put it together in her way,” said the designer.
Only Parisians of that era will understand the freedom the founder gave to women with her body-conscious sweaters reflecting a surge of sexual liberation. But de Libran expressed everyday ease in a different way. Since she herself (entirely by coincidence) lives on the street, she sees today’s Parisian women throw a coat over what might have been a dress from the night before, or a big, cuddly sweater over striped sports trousers. The ultimate accessory: a dog pulling on a lead sniffing its way down the street.
This idolised dream of a gentle weekend brought not only colourful, but also practical, separates for all genders and ages. The designer also included ecologically responsible fabrics inspired by the bio market.
I asked Lola Burstein-Rykiel how she thought her grandmother would have felt about being the only French fashion designer to have her name on a street.
“She would have loved it – loved the street and walked here and gone to the market,” Lola said. “It was my mother who wanted to do something for us to remember – maybe a Tour Rykiel!”