PARIS, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- French designer Sonia Rykiel, who pioneered women's fashion in the '60s and '70s, died at her home in Paris on Thursday from effects of Parkinson's. She was 86.
Rykiel stumbled into the world of fashion accidentally. In the mid-1950s, Rykiel's husband owned a boutique in Paris called Laura. When Rykiel became pregnant she began to make her own maternity clothes because she was unhappy with the options available to her.
"I wanted a maternity dress, but I couldn't find anything I liked," Rykiel said. "Everything was abominable. So I made one. Then I made a pullover. Elle put it on the cover."
Rykiel started carrying her own clothing in the Laura shops and, as her designs gained popularity, Rykiel eventually opened her own shop in 1968 -- the same year she divorced her husband.
Rykiel's clothes were then picked up by Bloomingdale's and Henri Bendel in New York.
Over the years, Rykiel's design house expanded to children's wear, men's wear and, in 2002, lingerie and erotica allowing Rykiel to broaden her clientele, which has ranged from Madonna to first lady Michelle Obama, who purchased one of Rykiel's plastic belts in 2009. Some of Rykiel's earliest celebrity clients were Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn.
In 2012 Rykiel revealed she had been living with Parkinson's for 15 years.
"I don't want to show my pain," Rykiel said at the time.
Rykiel was the first designer to feature inside-out stitching and one of the first to put phrases on her sweaters -- her first one appearing in 1971 with the word "sensuous" emblazoned across the front.
"Sonia Rykiel was a revolutionary designer. I have great admiration for the work that she has done on liberating women and their fashion. And she gave the inspiration and the style to all of us," Jean Paul Gaultier said.
Rykiel is survived by her daughter Nathalie, managing and artistic director of the Sonia Rykiel label, and her son Jean-Philippe.