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Sonia Rykiel Dies At 86: French Fashion Designer Battled Parkinson’s Disease

Aug 25, 2016 09:21 AM EDT
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Sonia Rykiel
(Photo : Getty Images/PATRICK KOVARIK)

Sonia Rykiel has died at the age of 86 in Paris, Business of Fashion reported.

The French fashion designer suffered from Parkinson's disease for nearly two decades.

In 1995, Rykiel stepped down from her role as CEO and artistic director of her eponymous brand but remained close to the label and acted as its honorary president. Julie de Libran is the current creative director. Libran, an alum of Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu, took the helm of Sonia Rykiel in May 2014

Rykiel was known for her sweaters and was often referred to as the Queen of Knitwear. Rykiel never intended to be a fashion designer though.

"I was supposed to be a mother like my mother, who didn't work. My husband [Sam Rykiel, whom she married in 1953] had a boutique called Laura. I wanted a maternity dress [when I became pregnant], but I couldn't find anything I liked. Everything was abominable. So I made one. Then I made a pullover. Elle put it on the cover. Then WWD elected me the Queen of Knitwear," Rykiel told WWD

In 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave Rykiel the Légion d'Honneur.

"You are terribly French. We need more free spirits like yours to turn our habits on their heads. Our country is too conservative; you contributed to French elegance," Sarkozy said of Rykiel in a speech. 

That same year, one of Rykiel's designs — a plastic belt — was even purchased by First Lady Michelle Obama.

"I find [Michelle Obama] fascinating: a very strong woman and a huge asset to her husband," she told WWD. 

Today, Rykiel's brand includes luxury ready-to-wear, contemporary, childrenswear and home goods. 

Earlier this year, a Sonia Rykiel store was opened on Madison Avenue in New York City.

"We are thrilled to bring Sonia Rykiel back to Madison Avenue. This is a key step in the brand's global development. We look forward to growing our footprint in the United States and to our continued acceleration — under Julie de Libran's creative direction — for the years to come," Sonia Rykie CEO Eric Langon said in a press release. 

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