Sonia Rykiel is a brand that grown-up women like. Whenever some new young talent hits town with a fresh exaggerated silhouette or l’esprit du temps defining fad, elegant ladies nod with politely sceptical Giaconda smiles and head back to Rykiel.
Quite aside from the genius innovations to the most traditional of tailoring and attention to detail that made French fashion regal in the first place, the formula that has made the house of Rykiel one of the stalwarts of classic French fashion is hardly hidden in the back room of the atelier: long simple lines that flow, smart use of knits, favouring blocks of bold colour over fussy textiles and stripes, stripes, stripes.
The irony is that if these qualities sum up the archive of the perennially popular design house put on the map by her mother, then they also describe the AW11 collection that daughter Nathalie sent down the catwalk in Paris this week. The difference is that Nathalie has made these qualities all her own and, without ever showing one design that was not in keeping with the ethos of Sonia Rykiel, she has now carved out her own particular signature style. Perhaps that’s the nature of a harmonious family tradition.
In a broad palette that nonetheless stuck close to a favoured Rykiel colour –red and its close relatives- Nathalie’s collection incorporated almost every other colour in the spectrum in striking or subtle ways; as crazy combinations of traditional knits, high-contrast bold blocks of colour or shimmering metallic horizontal bars across the front of elegant little dresses. Fair Isle knits, plaids and tartans were so much in evidence that one wonders whether the traditional Scottish manufacturers will be able to cope with the demand that this collection alone will create.
Blouson sleeves reminiscent of an interbellum style were very much in evidence, some even featuring the soft quilting that was also to be found in the other hot trend for next winter, the oversized bomber jacket. And, as we have seen elsewhere, the must-have material for the season is big hairy luxurious goat. Although many of the silhouettes were of that classic elongated Rykiel timelessness, a number of keynote shapes joined up the dots within the collection. Perhaps the most defining of these were the sheer waistless draped styles reminiscent of the late 1970’s and oversized detailing –such as puffed sleeves or billowing tops- on the top half of the body combined with figure-hugging on-the-knee skirts below.
Needless to say, the red and black combinations that are traditionally a staple at Rykiel were also out in full force alongside the newer broad electric palette.