Paco Rabanne, a visionary designer who changed the codes of fashion in the 60s, has passed away at the age of 88.
It is thanks to “12 importable dresses in contemporary materials” that Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo became Paco Rabanne. It happened on February1st. It was 1966 – so before May 68 – at a time when fashion was still very codified, and even compassed. The first collection of the young 22 year old artist, freshly a graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, does not parade. It is presented in the manner of a profession of faith in one of the salons of the very chic George V Hotel in Paris. And this choice alone, in form, was considered a revolution. This was in contrast to the sometimes tedious enumeration of toilets that followed one another and that has remained the basis of the parades even today.
Revolutionizing the codes
Paco Rabanne threw the first stone in the pond by inventing the “fashion happening”. An event to be experienced and savored. To look, to feel, to be surprised and to wonder. The second one is much bigger. It concerns the background (because fashion is not only appearances, it reveals a lot of the times that see it appear). The twelve micro-dresses, barely protruding from the breeches, were constructed without wire or needles but with pliers, flashlights and metal rings and in rigid materials. They were “useless, did not protect against nudity or cold”, as he himself recognized “the metalo of fashion”, but they have literally revolutionized the dress codes. They have made their creator one of the most famous designers of our time. Plastics, rhodoïds, metal pendants and sequins in alloy, ceramic or bakelite are the antipodes of soft and fluid fabrics, synonymous with refinement, have entered the world of couture thanks to him.
Even if his name is today mostly associated with a range of chic and shocking perfumes (One Million, XS, Fame) – and this is not for nothing -Paco Rabanne is one of those who pushed young people to turn the table and ask questions. He dressed the icons of the time, the first free and inspiring women (Brigitte Bardot, Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, etc.) with his most avant-garde creations. Ultra-short, relatively bare and shiny, her outfits are worn on bare and tanned skin, hair blowing in the wind, bare feet or booted up to mid-thigh. The aficionados of this little extravagant brand are the exact opposite of the young girls from good families that we wanted to look like until then. These creations took to the streets, and all the youth then began to imitate and adapt this gleaming and forward-looking style until the peak of the 80s.
A succession assured
Supported and financed by the Catalan cosmetics and perfume group Puig since the brand’s inception, the Basque-born designer has always had free rein to exhibit his flamboyant and iconoclastic universe. We saw on his catwalks (or pseudo catwalks) all sorts of materials, shapes, techniques and technologies – and even clothes that flashed with a thousand lights, electrified. As a creative twist to his reputation as a creator of uncomfortable, imported outfits, the whimsical designer even suggested assemblies of his trademark pellets in soft, fluffy materials. Since his failed prophecy of the apocalypse in 1999, he had retired to his beloved Brittany, where his family had settled to escape Franco’s rule before 1940. Paco Rabanne is the driving force behind the Puig Group, alongside brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten, Nina Ricci and Carolina Herrera. He will continue to revisit in his own way the legacy of futuristic fashion designer.