“Fashion is supposed to be fun” is a thing people like to say—but no one put that idea into action quite like Sonia Rykiel, the legendary French designer who, the New York Times reports, died today at 86.
While most runway shows tend to be a rather somber affair, with serious-looking models stomping down a runway in front of an audience of unsmiling editors, Rykiel’s looked like honest-to-god parties: girls danced down the catwalk, beamed and winked at the cameras, held hands, and genuinely appeared to be having a blast.
And sure, maybe there were signs backstage instructing them to do so, but the clothes no doubt made it an easy ask. Rykiel began her career in the ’60s and built a reputation for designing with women’s happiness in mind—she was unapologetically pragmatic, elevating wearable knits with cheeky slogans, colorful stripes, and sparkling Lurex, but never remotely boring, sending out giant Technicolor fur coats, dresses adorned with tassels and frills, and, at her Spring/Summer 2009 40th anniversary show, a shaggy, do.
While the old adage “less is more” was not exactly in Rykiel’s vocabulary (“Women should make themselves up, always. Natural is flat, empty, ugly,” she told the Telegraph in 2009), she designed, first and foremost, for women of substance and had their real lives in mind when creating clothes.
“We are working women,” she explained to the Times back in 1987. “Also, we have the problem of children, of men, to take care of our houses, so many things. I try to explain that in my clothes. They are clothes for everyday life.”
Rykiel’s daughter Nathalie has been at the helm of the house for the past seven years and has carried on her mother’s legacy of exuberant yet practical pieces at reasonable prices (the diffusion line, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, also offers a younger and more affordable entry point into the brand).
In the gallery, take a look back at some of the most spectacularly fun runway moments of the designer’s career.