NEW YORK--Sonia Rykiel came to town this month for a few reasons: to see the premiere of the movie "Ready to Wear," to look for a new boutique space on Madison Avenue and to buy a pair of snow boots at Bloomingdale's. "Do they have heels?" asked the diminutive redhead in her thick French accent, as she sipped tea with lemon in the St. Regis Hotel. "I have to have heels, because I am small." When it was pointed out that heels on snow boots can defeat the purpose, causing the wearer to fall over, she replied, "I already fall over. I should at least be wearing heels when I do it." Rykiel was in town for only three days--she was eager to get back to Paris to prepare for her family's big holiday gathering, and to work on her first novel. The book, she said, is about "a woman torn between a man and a sweater." "They're fighting over a sweater?" asked Rykiel's daughter Natalie wryly. Her mother rolled her eyes. "On one side, there is the sweater saying, 'Come to me, work on the collection, I made you,' and then there is the man saying, 'Come with me, I love you, it's me who makes you,' " explained Rykiel. "It's a little bit erotic, but not too much." Natalie, who travels and works closely with her mother, cringed at the mention of erotica. "Mama, I will do almost anything for you, but don't ask me to read about that," she said. "I don't want to know." Nevertheless, eros is a big interest of Rykiel's, whose first book was entitled "Et je la voudrais nue" ("And I Want Her Naked"). "That meant that if a woman, when she is naked, knows how to sit, how to walk, then the clothing is just extra," the author said. Despite her many other interests, Rykiel said she has no intention of retiring from the fashion business. On the contrary, she said, she has been reinvigorated the last two years. "Sometimes I was tired of it, but in the last two years, I've been in great spirits," she said. "I suppose because there are so many things going on in the world around us that affect me. War, the earthquake, children, illness. You need to put that in the fabric, in the pleats. I feel I still have so much to say." Although she started as a knitwear designer, Rykiel now produces a full-fledged sportswear collection twice a year from her Paris offices. The company, Sonia Rykiel CDM, currently manufactures the designer line, as well as Rykiel Homme, the men's wear line, which was introduced in 1990; Inscription, introduced in 1991, and Rykiel Enfant, the children's line. The company operates 42 freestanding boutiques in Europe, Asia and the U.S. and has department store distribution in this country at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, and at numerous specialty stores. The Rykiel company manufactures shoes and accessories and introduced a fragrance, Le Parfum, in September. There are plans to bring the fragrance here next fall. The company's wholesale volume is around $74 million (400 million francs). Rykiel said she'd like to find a new space for a shop here, but is in no rush. "We have just started looking, so I don't expect anything right away," she said; "maybe in six months." For this visit, though, she had a much more pressing matter to consider: dinner. "I love the food in New York," said Rykiel. "The pastries, all the little restaurants on Madison Avenue, Michael's. Where are we going to dinner tonight? Nobu? Good. I like sushi very much."
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