Sonia Rykiel explains Parkinson’s silence

Sonia Rykiel

Sonia Rykiel

Sonia Rykiel didn’t tell anyone she had Parkinson’s disease at first because it was “barely worth mentioning”.

Earlier this year, the 82-year-old designer announced she was suffering from the disease in her book N’oubliez pas que je joue, which means Don’t forget it’s a game.

She was first diagnosed when she was 66, but kept the news to herself. Sonia didn’t even tell her family what she was going through.

“I didn’t tell a soul – not even my daughter, who was in her 40s then. I kept it that way because my doctor advised me not to tell anyone. It was a mild form of the disease, so it was barely worth mentioning, he said. But in private I was really frightened, because my mother contracted the disease when she was 70, and I had memories of her suffering,” she explained.

The disease got worse as time went on and Sonia struggled to cover up the symptoms. She decided to write her book as she didn’t want to feel like she was “hiding” anything.

Although having Parkinson’s disease is a big part of the designer’s life, fashion is the thing she wants to be most associated with. She was president of her company until five years ago, when her daughter took the reins.

The star still contributes to her company though.

“I’ve been sketching designs for my label, Sonia Rykiel, for more than 50 years and even now, at 82, that’s how I spend my days,” she told British newspaper The Observer. “It’s the way I still express myself; it always has been. I don’t know what I would do without that. It’s been a constant throughout my life – the only thing is that these days I get tired. That is what has changed.

“My life is different now, and the world is a different place, too, but when I look back I’m still so proud of the legacy I’ve created. The designs I started out with in 1968 you could still wear today – especially the sweaters.”