Sonia Rykiel's Inspiring Stripes
“When Madame Rykiel opened her first store in St Germain, it was 1968. St Germain was a hotbed of literary talents, they were printing houses all around here and many of our customers were writers.
She put slogans on her sweaters and when folded on the shelves, they looked like book spines. She called it her sweater library. Every month she selected books that she arranged at the foot of the mannequins and her clients followed her selection. We sold books and clothing. Madame Rykiel was a writer too.” And so I learned from Eric, a distinguished and passionate gentleman who has been working at Sonya Rykiel forever.
Sonia Rykiel has always been more interested in the woman than in fashion and that feeling permeates her St Germain boutique: an extraordinary space filled with 50,000 books and a highly edited collection of exquisitely feminine and elegant pieces.
The glamorous location in the heart of Saint Germain des Pres does not seem to impact that feel of cosiness and welcome one experiences walking through the door – a great achievement by the team of floor assistants who are charming and friendly.
From my readings and interviews I concluded that friendliness and joie de vivre were her trademark. She asked her models to smile on the runway. She used bold colors. She put cheeky, humorous slogans on her sweaters: "Heureuse", "Sensuelle", "Creativity on White Snow".
Stripes were her interpretation of book spines. Multicolored, wild and horizontal. In her 2011 book "Dictionnaire Deglingue" she likens stripes to "scares on the fabric", illustrating her anti conformist approach to fashion and the constraints it imposed on women's bodies.
La memoire du corps.
For her, stripes are the in-between of the body, the inside out - just like a book spine is a little bit of the book presented on the outside.