We all want to live in Sonia's world! Last night, in a huge see-through marquee perched on a hill in a park on the edge of Paris, 800 fashionistas gathered to celebrate Sonia Rykiel's 40th year in business. Celebrities (Dita Von Teese, Tracey Emin and Emma Watson amongst them), designers (Jean Paul Gaultier and Olivier Theyskens) and editors, who had all been ferried to the venue in a fleet of London taxis, feasted on impossibly refined French food. The collection was classic Rykiel: slouchy cashmere sweaters emblazoned with huge diamante lips worn by leggy models with signature, crimped ‘Sonia' hair and bowler hats; soft mannish suits worn with t shirts; sugary coloured ostrich coats; and, for a finale, a runway full of fondant coloured taffeta cocktail dresses. But the best had been saved until last. At the end of the show, after the designer and her daughter, Natalie had taken their bows to a standing ovation, Miss Rykiel took a seat on stage to receive her birthday surprise. Thirty international designers from her own generation to the latest arrivals; from New York, Paris, London and Milan; from mainstream to cutting edge, paid their own tribute to Sonia each with an outfit inspired by her look. It was pure fashion theatre. The audience never sat from their standing ovation. Table centres of roses were demolished to shower the stage with petals as models in tributes from Karl Lagerfeld, Alber Elbaz, Donna Karan, Micheal Kors, Giorgio Armani and Stella McCartney walked the runway blowing Sonia a kiss or curtsying as they passed her. Rodarte's Obama t shirt got thunderous applause. Martin Margiela's fluffy coat styled like crimped ‘Sonia' hair sent them wild. And Gaultier's finale of a model in a sweater in progress, complete with huge knitting needles and ball of wool, following behind on its own little wheeled stool nearly finished them off. By this stage there were some worried glances in Sonia's direction to make sure the rather frail looking designer was holding up. But she seemed to be lapping up her birthday celebration. And who can blame her?
- Paula Reed