'Queen Of Knitwear' Sonia Rykiel Dead At 86: Family

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French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, the so-called 'Queen of Knitwear,' died on Thursday at the age of 86 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, her daughter told AFP.

"My mother died at 5:00 this morning at her home in Paris from the effects of Parkinson's," Nathalie Rykiel said.

sonia rykiel

The pioneering Rykiel was a fixture in the industry for half a century, launching her own fashion house in 1968 buoyed by the Swinging Sixties craze in London. She had made her breakthrough in 1962 with the so-called "Poor Boy Sweater," a garment designed for women that had long sleeves and a shorter, fitted shape. The "Poor Boy" met resistance at first partly because of its bulky stitches.

But all that changed in December 1963 when Elle magazine featured the 19-year-old French pop idol Francois Hardy on its front cover in a stripey red-and-pink Rykiel number.

There was a sensation — Brigitte Bardot and fellow singer Sylvie Vartan were photographed in Rykiel sweaters and Audrey Hepburn herself went to the shop and snapped up five of them.

Over the decades, she branched out into other branches of fashion, but always remained true to knitwear.

Rykiel was born in the upmarket Paris suburb of Neuilly in 1930 as the eldest of five daughters to a Romanian watchmaker father and a Russian mother. In 1954, she married a clothing store owner, Sam Rykiel, with whom she had two children and whom she later divorced.

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Within the French fashion industry, Rykiel will be remembered as an original who helped cement Paris and, in particular, the Left Bank, as the capital of couture. In 2009, 30 of the world's top designers paid tribute to the flame-haired "Queen."

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