Ethnically a Russian-Romanian Jew, Sonia Rykiel was born in Neuilly, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France, the eldest of five daughters of a Russian mother and a Romanian father. At the age of 17, she was employed to dress the window displays in a Parisian textile store. In 1953 Sonia married Sam Rykiel, owner of a boutique selling elegant clothing. In 1962, she couldn't find any soft sweaters to wear when she was pregnant, so she used a supplier to her husband from Venice to design her own.
Sonia Rykiel thereafter created her first maternity dresses and a tiny sweater, called the Poor Boy Sweater, which she started selling from her husband's label "Laura". The Poor Boy Sweater made the cover of ELLE fashion magazine, and brought Rykiel fame; because of it, she was crowned "Queen of Knits" by the Americans in 1967.
Since then, she has continued to experiment to expand her offerings. She later became the first designer to put seams on the outside of a garment, and to print words on her sweaters. In particular, she favours long clinging sweaters or small cropped pullovers, large rolled-back cuffs and long shawls. Her color palette usually features beige, grey, dark blue and charcoal.
She has also created a range of fragrances of which '7e Sens' was the first.
Rykiel has written many books, including an A to Z of fashion, and a collection of children’s stories.
In 1980 Rykiel was voted one of the world's 10 most elegant women. She proved that knitwear can follow any trend. Rykiel also hit upon the trend of big, soft, fun fur done as a huge bubble of color - in her case baby pink, purple knitted fox or teal-blue Mongolian lamb. During Paris Fashion Week in October 2003, Sonia Rykiel showed her own collection for next spring. There were also gorgeous ruffled dresses in vintage floral and polka dot prints and smart houndstooth coats.
With her daughter Nathalie, Rykiel brought Paris to New York; in February 2005 Henri Bendel launched an in-store shop for the Sonia Rykiel Woman line. There are three Sonia Rykiel boutiques in the U.S., in Boston, New York City and Guam.
In December 2009, Sonia Rykiel and H&M introduced a collection of underwear, "Sonia Rykiel pour H&M", the first of two masstige operations with the Swedish retailer (the second became available in February 2010). An event was held at the Grand Palais in Paris to celebrate the event.
She is seen briefly in the 2010 film "Bill Cunningham's New York"
It was also recently revealed that she suffers from Parkinson's Disease, and that she has been dealing with the disease for 15 years.
See also 
- "Left of centre: Celebrating 40 years of Sonia Rykiel". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
- Champenois, Sabrina (4 December 2008). "L’impératrice rousse". Libération (in French). Retrieved 24 November 2010.
- "All About Sonia Rykiel: Fashion And Style". essortment.com. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Press Release
- Sonia Rykiel's website
- Sonia Rykiel profile Voguepedia
- Sonia Rykiel on Fashion Net
- Parachute and combat inspiration in the Spring 2003 collection