Sonia Ryliel Talks To Interview Magazine By Rebecca Vioght

     REBECCA VOIGHT: How's life after the Spring/Summer 2009 show?

SONIA RYKIEL: It's time to start over. As soon as the show is over I always think, How will the woman I design for go forward? It's so important to start quickly because I can't let her get away.

RV: How do you think fashion will get through the current financial crisis?

SR: I'm very concerned. This crisis is worldwide, it's deep, and it affects everybody. Will people continue to shop in the same way? No, that's not possible.

RV: But the show you just put on was so joyful-the girls were dancing.

SR: My shows are about the complete woman who swallows it all. It's a question of survival. I think in the darkest moments, we need a break. It's useless to send models out on the runway to cry.

RV: Fashion has become increasingly about luxury. But you don't seem to have taken the solid gold road. Why?

SR: For me, luxury isn't just the real thing. It's also fake. Swarovski crystals or real diamonds? It's a game. You have to be luxurious nude. It's difficult to move in the nude in front of a mirror. It's much easier to move when you're dressed. But if you can walk around in the nude easily in front of your man, if you can be luxurious in the nude, then you've really got it.

NATHALIE RYKIEL: The Rykiel philosophy has always been to mix inexpensive things with expensive ones. We started with velour T-shirts, and now we have great sable furs. It's about a woman who is very much into seduction. She wants everything out of life. She is still willing to starve for a pair of shoes.

RV: What did you think about all these designers' takes on Rykiel for the 40th anniversary?

SR: I was shocked because I didn't know anything about it beforehand. I thought it was magnificent that other designers would do all this work-it was so beautiful, so fantastic. I said to Jean Paul [Gaultier], "You know I don't knit." And he said, "You still don't?" It's true. I don't know how to knit.

NR: Sonia is strong, and so am I. I love to work with a sense of urgency, impatience, and also in secret. We had been celebrating our 40th anniversary for an entire year, but I didn't want to have a big birthday cake on the runway. I wanted to surprise her. I thought if I could get designers like Giorgio Armani and Ann Demeulemeester to come up with their version of Rykiel, it would say something incredible about my mother but also about fashion designers who would come together to celebrate one of their own like this, to show how she has inspired them.

RV: Unlike many designers, you not only own your house, but you're still designing. What keeps you at it?

SR: This job fell on me. I didn't want to do it. It was an accident. For the first 10 years I said, "Tomorrow I'm stopping." First I made a dress because I was pregnant and I wanted to be the most beautiful pregnant woman. Then I made a sweater because I wanted to have one that wasn't like anyone else's. I became the world's queen of sweaters without even knowing how one was made. It's obvious today that I need to be in the center of this business even if there are people helping me. Say I go to La Traviata tonight and my team goes to see the Bee Gees. The next day we knit with La Traviata and rock, and it's fantastic. I think I'm a good thief. That means that everything I hear, everything I see, becomes part of what I do.

NR: Designers change today. All these groups have a designer and when it's not good they change them. It's a huge difference for Rykiel because women know it's Sonia and I on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

RV: Is Sonia Rykiel all about Rive Gauche of Saint-Germain des Prés?

SR: I would say no. Rive Gauche is an intellectual idea that will always be there. What counts is the world. Even if I'm in Japan and I don't speak Japanese and the woman facing me doesn't speak French but she's dressed in Rykiel, and she recognizes me, then we have a common language right away.

NR: But Rykiel incarnates French chic. Not just that, it's Parisian chic, it's Left Bank chic. And to be even more precise, it is about Saint-Germain des Prés. The Rykiel woman is intelligent, cultivated, and aware of politics but still crazy enough to fall in love. - Interview Magazine


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