fashion: Life and soul of the party

Understated glamour is Sonia Rykiel's hallmark, and that makes her collection perfect for a millennium-night extravagance

For those of us not sickened to the stomach by endless fashion twittering over what, and what not, to wear to "that party", here's a simple but effective hot tip: it's safe to say, ladies, that we could all do a lot worse than opt for a little something courtesy of Sonia Rykiel.

It's not too obvious a label - rather, to this particular fashion editor's mind, it is somewhat under-rated - but it is reassuringly expensive nonetheless. Neither is it so sparkly or saucy that those wearing it are likely to resemble nothing more than the proverbial Christmas tree come midnight on 1 January 2000.

Instead, any woman wise enough to invest in what has now become one of the great classic French brands can rest assured that she will a) be unlikely to run into anyone wearing the same thing (quelle horreur!) and b) have just that sexy je ne sais quoi, that Gallic sense of drama that ensures she wipes the floor - sartorially speaking at least - with anyone else in the vicinity.

Rykiel's autumn/winter collections are always her strongest - she remains queen of the knits - the super-skinny, body-conscious look that has been her signature since she started out in the late Sixties is always good to see. This season's offering is particularly impressive with Rykiel in full-on party mood.

The 69-year-old, flame-haired, alabaster-skinned Rykiel is the quintessential French fashion designer. Along with Yves Saint Laurent, she was responsible for dressing the bright, bra-less, androgynous young things that earned the Rive Gauche its elitist and bohemian reputation. Fashion legend has it that she opened her first boutique on the Left Bank during the student riots in May 1968. Her flagship store remains just a stone's throw away from the original location to this day.

Certainly, her loosely formed, long and lean clothes - mainly in black, with the odd flash of colour in the form of the classic Rykiel stripy sweater and the occasional scattering of diamante - are a far cry from the more structured looks that came before them. But Rykiel's formula is one that has worked, beautifully, and endures to this day. In 1997, Rykiel sold no less than 90,000 sweaters. Her turnover that same year was an impressive 450m francs. Not that they are recommended for just any old woman - far from it. Mme Rykiel is very specific in her likes and dislikes, famously eschewing what she describes as "the natural look" for herself or anyone else, for that matter.

"I love the woman who has built her own personality into her appearance," she once told me, safe in the knowledge that she numbers herself among them. "You have to make the best of yourself. My clothes are just a reflection of me. I'm interested in fashion as a way of life."

The eldest of five daughters, Rykiel attributes her strength and intelligence to the fact that she was the least beautiful of her siblings. "Because I wasn't pretty, I had to be fantastic," she says. "I turned it to my advantage. I was so strong, I didn't care. I thought to myself, I'm a red-headed girl and I'm strong, so don't touch me."

Renaissance woman

Rykiel is also a novelist (Je La Voudrais Etre Nue, Les Levres Rouges), artist (she's illustrated fairy tales), interior designer, and singer (she recorded a duet with Malcolm McLaren).

(Left to right) crepe apron dress with camellia, pounds 405; angora tie- neck sweater, pounds 205; cashmere-mix wrap skirt with leather belt, pounds 450; crepe dress with lace bodice pounds 405; crepe button-through dress with camellia; pounds 610, devore velvet coat, pounds 495

(Opposite page, left to right) angora tie-neck sweater, pounds 205; wool wrap skirt with leather belt, pounds 450; faux-fur blouson, pounds 520; cashmere-mix wrap skirt with leather belt, pounds 450; cashmere-mix halter-neck top, pounds 150; crepe apron dress with camellia, pounds 405

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

    Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

    Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

    Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

    MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

    Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor