A new street in the heart of a Paris’ 6th arrondissement was dedicated on Sunday in memory of the French-Jewish fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, who died in 2016 at the age of 86 of Parkinson’s disease.
Immediately after Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo dedicated the narrow street, a fashion show showcasing Rykiel’s brand was held among the vegetable stands in the area.
“Sonia Rykiel gave us a taste of freedom,” Hidalgo said. “She was the most Parisian of Parisians.” In a city that has no lane or alley named after Coco Chanel or Christian Dior, Rykiel became the first designer to be bestowed such recognition.
She opened her first store exactly 50 years ago — against the backdrop of the French student protests of 1968 — in the Left Bank Paris neighborhood of Saint Germain-des-Pres, opposite the Café de Flore, which was a center of the bohemian scene in the French capital. She had close ties with writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Cocteau.
She was known for her mane of shoulder-length red hair, her iconic bangs, her knitwear and her open affection for graphic striped patterns. In 1995, she ceded her position as head of her fashion house to her daughter, Nathalie.
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The lane in Rykiel’s memory is in the middle of a major Left Bank boulevard where the designer used to buy fruits and vegetables at the organic market held there on Sundays. To mark the dedication of Allée Sonia Rykiel, the current artistic director of the Rykiel fashion house, Julie de Libran, decided to hold a fashion show of the firm’s upcoming summer collection at the market, drawing inspiration from mesh net shopping bags — which she transformed into crocheted tops, dresses and shoes.
She equipped her fashion models with baguettes, flower bouquets and broccoli sprigs poking out of carts and from shopping bags that the models held. They were accompanied by puppies and children, including De Libran’s own son.
Paris officials declined to say what future plans they might have to name other streets after fashion designers, but Britain’s Guardian website noted that Coco Chanel was unlikely to get such recognition in light of her residence during much of the Nazi occupation of Paris at the Ritz Hotel in the company of her lover, the German intelligence office Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage.