I caught the Paris retrospective of Sonia Rykiel's 40-year career of changing how women dress (I think she's my new Coco), which I finally saw after my first attempt at seeing it was disrupted by my three year-old daughter who decided she would sing and play butt games where she bends over, sticks her butt out at you, wiggles it and says loudly "It's bum bum time!" and laughs hysterically. It occurred to me this may not be proper museum behaviour, not just because the song was in English but it may be considered distracting to the other patrons so I took her downstairs, handed her off to Dad with a 'good luck to you' and headed back in. (You might think I'm nuts but she's usually very well behaved and she wanted to come along to see the dresses. I had no way of knowing our visit would coincide with Bum Bum Time.)
Anyway, the exhibit features 220 of Rykiel's designs from
1968 to present, all intermingled
according to motif rather than
year/era as her themes have appeared again and again throughout her
career - like the poorboy sweater, black, stripes, words printed on
sweaters and seams on the outside. One of her sketchbooks was on
display and laminated so the pages could be browsed which was
appreciated as there were others behind glass - it's fascinating to see
how ideas are borne, as it is to see the style of one's illustrations.
Rykiel's are quite compact and restrained and she seems to press firmly
and evenly with her pencil and use concise lines, rather than a flowy kind of
loose style - an interesting contrast to the 'freeing' quality
that presents itself in her clothes.
A film presentation accompanied the exhibit - a Warhol interview for Warhol's TV in 1981. All in French and
sadly, I had to pretend I knew what she was saying as my ear for French just isn't very good. The show footage is
from the era of the first wave of supermodels - Jerry Hall and Janice
Dickinson were leading the pack and doing these weird dancey moves, you
know the kind of old-school runway boogie where the feet do little
steps going back and forth with a lot of hip wiggle and the hands are
waved about slowly and deliberately at shoulder level as if to conjure
up a tray of cocktails which they would surely and quickly consume themselves.
A second part to the exhibit focusses on Rykiel's collaboration with
Dominique Isserman who photographed all her publicity shots from 1979
to 1990, an impressive collection which could warrant a solo exhibit.
While watching the Sonia Rykiel interview and pretending to know what she was saying, I couldn't help but notice how thoroughly she embodies the essence of French chic. It's not about having hair just so (hers looks like Rosanne Rosannadanna's) or perfect features. It's about carrying oneself with that cool elegance and an attitude that suggests all is right in their world, regardless of what's going on - this is a woman in control. Now that's a role model. (And being rail thin and having the best clothes doesn't hurt, either.)
How great are the knit water wings and ring?