Sonia Rykiel made her name in the sixties, before Rive Gauche had only just been co-opted by Yves and when the ready-to-wear industry was just starting out, still a poor-boy offshoot from the couture. How times have changed - the Rykiel show was crammed to the rafters with celebrities and the fashion industry elite, now one of the longest-running ready-to-wear brands showing in Paris. In fact, the Rykiel brand will be fifty next year, if we're counting from the time a pregnant Sonia perfected a sweater as maternity garment.
Ironically, it's her daughter Nathalie that now helms the business - although you'd never know, so seamless was the progression from Sonia's brightly-coloured, lightweight and lighthearted knitwear to Nathalie's=85 well, exactly the same. For Autumn/Winter 2011, neither Nathalie nor Sonia saw any reason to break that pattern, especially given that every other designer seems to be looking back to their glory days of the Parisian seventies for inspiration. Many other have alighted on YSL, but Rykiel's interpretation was from their own back-catalogue, meshing together checks and argylls, multi-coloured knits and playful touches like primary-coloured fox and ping-pong sized pearls. Colour clashing was a big deal chez Rykiel - an orange frock with cyclamen satin sleeves, for example, a primrose blouse with French navy skirt, or a multitude of reds from tomato through to burgundy knitted together and topped of with a flash of cerise fur.
This offering was generally more womanly than Rykiel's usual girlish glee - but it felt perfectly judged. There was a sophisticated appeal to the garments, the new longer-length sexed-up with waist-high slits, as in a stand-out wrap-around tobacco pleat skirt with raspberry cardigan sporting fluffy sleeves. Those were something of a leitmotif for this show, fur bulking out the arms of tartan overcoats and camelhair toppers, and sometimes coiled around the neck, dyed delicious shades of lemon-yellow, bubblegum pink and spearmint. Yes, all highly reminiscent of Spring's humbug-striped Prada fayre - but, on the other hand, they could have been plucked from Rykiel's seventies archives. Either way, they looked just as great as the rest of this spot-on collection.