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Paco Rabanne: The Architect of 1960s Space Age Fashion

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If you only know Paco Rabanne as a contemporary brand, it may be for his fragrances. But in the 1960s he was one of the original fashion rebels. How else can you describe a designer who titled his first collection “12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials”?

Born Francisco Rabanedacuervo in 1934 in San Sebastian, Spain, he fled to France with his mother when the Spanish Civil War began. After studying architecture at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he began his fashion career designing jewelry for prestigious houses like Balenciaga, Givenchy and Dior.

The 1960’s marked a time of creative ferment in many fields, and in 1966, at the age of 32, Paco Rabanne launched his own label. That first collection consisted of 12 dresses, all made from what were considered unlikely materials like plastic and metal. He made further headlines by being the first designer to use black women as runway models.

In the coming years, he designed costumes for films, one of the most famous being the sci-fi fantasy, Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda.

To fashion his dresses out of metal chains and plastic discs or triangles, Paco Rabanne would have the model lie on a table and shape the metal parts directly on her body. This prompted Coco Chanel to assert that he was not so much a couturier as a metalworker.

He was one of the most popular designers of the 20th Century, alongside Yves St. Laurent, Rudi Gernreich, Courreges and Pierre Cardin. His clientele included Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy.

“The woman of tomorrow will be efficacious, seductive and without contest superior to man. It is for this woman that I conceive my designs.” Paco Rabanne

Last year Manish Arora, newly named creative head of the House of Rabanne, created a show based on Rabanne’s original collection, but utilizing the new technology. Obviously Paco Rabanne was 45 years ahead of his time!

main photo credit: here


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