Paco Rabanne Dies At 88
An Unconventional Talent
Paco Rabanne, the Spanish fashion designer is dead at 88. He joins an increasing list of industry veterans who passed in the recent year including Vivienne Westwood.
The former architect made his couture debut in Paris in 1966. The collection, named Twelve Unwearable Dresses, included 12 dresses created in metals from aluminum to plastic. One of the only surviving dresses of the show is currently at the MET and created with aluminum held with metal rings. It was an introduction to his eclecticism and deviation from standard fashion practices. The show also established his “space-age” aesthetic that set him apart from other Parisian designers.
Additionally, a background in architecture and jewelry-making led to experimental choices in material. His ability to manipulate sequins and plastic to create “unwearable” looks was a reflection of brilliant craftsmanship.
The Chainmail Dress
After his debut, the chainmail dress became a signature of the House of Paco Rabanne. The emblem of space age fashion, the dress’s rise coincided with the Space Race in the 1960s where it gained the most traction. Celebrities, both French and American, who are now icons of that decade wore chainmail designs such as Francoise Hardy and Audrey Hepburn. Above all, the dress quickly became a representation of a certain period of time where futurism was embraced.
A Job In Costume Design
Afterwards came a venture in costume design. Rabanne was a movie designer for various films including Casino Royale and Two Or Three Things I Know About Her. But his most famous work was for the 1968 science-fiction film Barbarella starring Jane Fonda. The wacky film undoubtedly matched his retro futuristic aesthetic and made him a fixed cultural presence.
A green metallic dress lined with square metals is perhaps the most famous, Fonda’s superhero character also wore sequin tops and shorts paired with knee high boots. The pieces, often sensual, encapsulated the the designer’s penchant for provocative dressing. The movie pushed him into the mainstream.
Though the world celebrates Rabanne today, he was not very well received by the industry in his day. Coco Chanel infamously said, “He’s a metal worker not a couturier.” But he succeeded in the job of a designer. He made clothes that captured the mood of his time while pushing for boldness. Designers today can look to him as a pioneer for making clothing from radical materials.
Featured Image via The Perfume Society