Sonia Rykiel, In Her Own Words


Sonia Rykiel Has Passed Away at 86


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Sonia Rykiel, In Her Own Words

FU remembers the design legend by discussing some of her most unforgettable musings




Photo: @soniarykiel / Instagram

When we learned the news that Sonia Rykiel had passed away today, the Fashion Unfiltered staff couldn’t help but discuss the designer’s influence. She was a force to be reckoned with who knew herself and her client, and wouldn’t allow anyone to push her off her path. Here, the members of FU’s editorial team recall some of Rykiel’s most memorable quotes, and how they’ve touched, motivated, and inspired each and every one of us.

Katharine K. Zarrella, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

“How can you live the high life if you don’t wear high heels?” —Sonia Rykiel

This is probably Sonia Rykiel’s most quoted utterance, and I think it’s just fabulous. Firstly, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about how high heels are abusive accessories created for a man’s pleasure. High heels are empowering, and every time I wear them, I feel like I can stomp over anything (or anyone) that gets in my way. I think Rykiel was touching on that here. She was a trailblazer when it came to feminist fashion, and if a lift helps you exude the same confidence that Rykiel did throughout her career, I say slip on a pair of nine-inchers and continue down the (hopefully not very steep) road to world domination.

Amber Kallor, Beauty Director

"You have to be luxurious nude. It's difficult to move in the nude in front of a mirror. It's much easier to move when you're dressed. But if you can walk around in the nude easily in front of your man, if you can be luxurious in the nude, then you've really got it." —Sonia Rykiel 

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society," noted Mark Twain. For Sonia Rykiel, however, I think clothes completed the woman—they never made her. She designed for the strong, sensual woman underneath her clothes—not just the cool, Left Bank lady in the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. To be truly comfortable with yourself without any adornment is no easy task, but I believe that once you've found that security, it always shines through. You can't buy confidence, but you can certainly dress it! Lola Rykiel recently told me that posture was of utmost importance to her grandmother. A person can be wearing head to toe designer, but if she's not carrying herself like she's ready to take on the world, nobody will believe that she's capable. 

Aria Darcella, News and Features Editor 

"I think in the darkest moments, we need a break.” —Sonia Rykiel

The quote is plastered all over social media, but I read it more as advice, rather than as the musing of an incredibly smart woman. And if you're going to take thoughtful advice from anyone, it may as well be Sonia Rykiel. 

When times are tough, or things are falling apart, the old adage is to "push through," and throw yourself into a task. But honestly, it seems much more soothing to temporarily tune out, lest you burn out. Given her propensity for intellectualism, and the fact that her brain was firing on all cylinders well into old age, I wonder how often Rykiel needed to remind herself to take a break, and just stop thinking.

Meanwhile, as a fashion writer, I enjoy analyzing and critiquing the real-world and social connections the industry has to everyday life. That being said, I am fully aware that there is a hefty dose of superficiality in this industry. As far as I'm concerned, the glamorous, fabulousness of fashion is a healthy form of escapism from the daily tragedies that unfold in our world. It's a dark place, and we can't (and shouldn't) ignore the news. But as long as we keep abreast of what is happening both globally and at home, it's more than fine to take a break and enjoy a moment of entertainment in who-wore-what.

Ashley W. Simpson, Features Editor-at-Large

"My shows are about a woman who swallows it all. It's a question of survival." —Sonia Rykiel

I love this quote for Sonia Rykiel’s honesty and the unapologetic way in which she owns the woman she presents and embodies.

Erinn Hermsen, Site Director 

"I think that there are so many women who understand nothing about clothes and they should try and understand themselves before they start putting on disguises. They should stand in front of the mirror for a day, two days, or three, and find out what they have which is beautiful, interesting—what they should show, hair, neck, arms, or hands." —Sonia Rykiel

I love how clothes can express who you are, but how can you express who you are without understanding yourself? I find that the women with the best style are those who truly know themselves, and appreciate their own beauty. 

Hilary Shepherd, Editorial Coordinator 

"It's not true that clothes look better on skinny girls. What counts is the attitude.” —Sonia Rykiel 

My first encounter with one of the house of Sonia Rykiel’s designs was in the summer of 2011. I was interning in the fashion closet at V, working closely with the Catherine Newell-Hanson, who was the fashion and market editor at the time. It was hot as hell in New York, and we were prepping for a fall photo shoot with Sebastian Faena. As I thumbed through the racks, one garment in particular caught my eye: an oversized coat with exaggerated, shaggy sleeves in a tawny shade of brown. It was a Sonia Rykiel coat from Fall 2011—the first runway showing after which her daughter, Nathalie, took a bow without her fiery-haired mother by her side. Just as I was put off by its silliness (I distinctly recall likening it to a woolly mammoth), I was also remarkably drawn to it. I remember putting it on and feeling chic, luxurious, exquisitely Parisian—a completely different version of myself. There was a specific attitude—a particular je ne sais quoi—that I immediately adopted. And though it likely looked absolutely absurd on me, it was the attitude that really mattered. And an attitude of confidence is more important now than ever before. 

Julie D’Alessandro, Editorial Intern

"Perfume follows you. It chases you and lingers behind you. It's a reference mark. Perfume makes silence talk." —Sonia Rykiel 

My grandmother introduced me to this quote whilst encouraging me to find a signature scent. Since I was young and confused as to what it really meant, I just wrote it off as one of her weird beauty rituals. A few years later, she passed away, and I was on my way to spend a whole summer in New York. I had a new perfume, and for some reason, I decided to wear it every single day I was there. That summer eventually became the most life-changing period of my life. Once I came back home, I retired the perfume, mostly because the bottle was nearing the end of its life. But a few weeks later, I caught a whiff of the scent, and suddenly, all the fabulous memories I had from the summer came right back. It was then that I understood what my grandmother and Rykiel were talking about. Even when you feel like you are so far away from people or a place that you love, perfume is always able to bring you right back. One whiff of that perfume held so many emotions. Today, whenever I think I might do something that I won't want to ever forget, I make sure I am wearing the perfect perfume. You never know when your life is going to change, and a scent will always bring you right back to who you were in that moment. 

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Sonia Rykiel Has Passed Away at 86

Her contributions to fashion and feminism will not be forgotten



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Photo: @assouline / Instagram

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