Pioneer French designer Sonia Rykiel dies at 86

French designer Sonia Rykiel, whose relaxed striped sweaters helped liberate women from their stuffy suits and who went on to run a global fashion empire, has died. She was 86.

President Francois Hollande's office announced her death in a statement on Thursday. Hollande praised her as "a pioneer" who "offered women freedom of movement."

His office didn't provide further details, and the Sonia Rykiel fashion house in Paris wouldn't immediately comment.

Rykiel got her start in fashion by designing knit maternity dresses for herself, and opened her first women's ready-to-wear shop on the Left Bank in 1968.

Her empire grew to include menswear and children's lines as well as accessories and perfumes.

Rykiel's daughter Nathalie has long helped manage the fashion house.