In May 1968, Parisian students, workers and trade unions took part in one of the biggest general protests that Paris had ever seen. Historians have said that the month-long period of civil unrest in Paris changed the city and the country and its effects are still felt today. May 1968 also saw a monumental moment in French fashion, with the opening of the first Sonia Rykiel store in the Left Bank.
Sonia Rykiel is honoring the 50th anniversary of both events with its Generous Sweaters project, launching in stores and online this month.
Julie de Libran, Artistic Director of Sonia Rykiel, collaborated with seven women to design limited edition sweaters, with proceeds going to charities that the women have selected. Actresses Kirsten Dunst, Sofia Boutella and Kristin Scott Thomas are donating proceeds to Planned Parenthood, Ving, and Hope and Homes for Children, respectively, architect Kazuyo Sejima selected Okaeri-Gohan Shokudo, a charity that provides free meals and support for single and working mothers and families in Hitachi City, model and activist Liya Kebede picked her organization, Lemlem Foundation, which has helped over 12,000 women give birth safely, artist Langley Fox chose Le Refuge, and Sue-Jin Kang, the artistic director of the Korean National Ballet, selected the Children’s Hospital of Seoul National University.
The Parisian label chose sweaters for the collaboration as a nod to the “Queen of Knits” herself Sonia Rykiel, who was inspired by sweaters to launch her own fashion house. The collaborators were given complete creative freedom to design each piece as well. Kingsman and Star Trek actress Boutella made two sweaters that include graphics on a sporty sweatshirt and a colorful butterfly design on a loose knit sweater, Dunst referenced her Swedish heritage, working with a traditional Swedish sweater, Kebede referenced her father’s favorite sweater for her oversized knit sweater, and Sejima drew influence from the layering of kimonos, or Junihitoe, for her piece that is crafted with three dresses made at the Sonia Rykiel mill in Italy.
“Sonia Rykiel has always been a fashion house creating designs by women, for women,” said de Libran, who also designed sweaters for the capsule.
To mark the anniversary of the house and of a year which changed the social landscape in France, it was important for me to create a platform for expression that was also an opportunity to give something back to society. Generous Sweaters has been a very rich experience and the occasion to learn and exchange with these outstanding women, all of whom have a strong connection to the Sonia Rykiel universe.
The collection is a fitting way to celebrate 50 years of Sonia Rykiel and the late 1960s revolution that ushered in a new era in Paris. As much as how the world has gotten better over time, we are reminded that more work has to be done, and Generous Sweaters shows how the label uses its platform to help others in need and pay it forward. Sonia Rykiel’s impact on women’s fashion is evident, as well as her influence on extraordinary women.
Kristin Scott Thomas
Sue Jin Kang
Julie de Libran