Radical chic in constant revolution

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SONIA Rykiel, the godmother of French fashion, showed her Autumn/Winter 2000 collection in Paris yesterday. Rykiel opened her first boutique in Paris on the Left Bank in 1968, the year of the student uprising. Even today she prides herself for having dressed that revolution, introducing easy, unstructured clothes that were sinuous and sexy and quintessentially French.

Her basic signature has changed little since then, and her flagship store remains a landmark on the fashionable boulevard Saint-Germain, only a stone's throw away from the original boutique.

Although her hallmark style hasn't changed, her gift is to update it every season, so it is always fresh and of the moment.

Yesterday's show was particularly fine. She updated her great knitwear with Mongolian lamb collars that kissed the models faces as they sashayed down the runway. Indeed, lips featured throughout the collection - in a typical witty twist, diamante lipstick prints were appliqued onto skinny sweaters - and even appeared in the form of a bumbag.

Rykiel's clothes are predominantly black; they are also typically French. But this time around, she introduced more vivid colour to her collection: flashes of magenta, purple and orange lifted the proceedings, best seen gracing metallic spike-heeled boots.

For evening, the little black dress came out in all its guises and to suit all shapes and sizes of women - Rykiel is a mistress of this particular craft. In devore or matt crepe jersey, they were slashed to the navel, split to the thigh and either super-sexy or the height of Parisian elegance.

When the designer appeared at the end of her show, flanked by models, she reached out to her audience like the queen of France. She is extraordinary. Aged almost 70 and still a working mother, her hair is as flame-red as it ever was, her make up as dramatic, and her clothes as desirable. She is perhaps the best advertisement of them of all.

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Review, page 8