Paco Rabanne  

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Paco Rabanne (1934 – 2023) was a French-Spanish fashion designer who gained early notoriety for his Space-Age fashion designs alongside Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges.

His "Manifesto: 12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials" (1966) questioned the nature of clothing apparent in such dresses as the one worn by Brigitte Bardot in the video clip of "Contact" (1967).


Early life and education

Rabanne was born 18 February 1934 in the Basque town of Pasaia, Gipuzkoa province. His father, a Republican Colonel, was executed by Francoist troops during the Spanish Civil War. Rabanne's mother was chief seamstress at Cristóbal Balenciaga's first couture house in Donostia, Basque Country, and moved Rabanne's family when he opened Balenciaga in Paris in 1937, due to the Spanish Civil War. In mid-1950s Paris, while studying architecture at l'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Rabanne earned money making fashion sketches for Dior and Givenchy, and shoe sketches for Charles Jourdan, nevertheless he subsequently took a job with France's foremost developer of reinforced concrete, Auguste Perret, working there for over ten years.



He started his career in fashion by creating jewelry for Givenchy, Dior, and Balenciaga and founded his own fashion house in 1966. He used unconventional material such as metal, paper, and plastic for his metal couture and outlandish and flamboyant designs. For the debut of his namesake brand in 1966, he presented "Manifesto: 12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials". Although he didn't consider himself a futurist, Rabanne's most famous contribution to the fashion industry was arguably his futurist space age designs. People Magazine journalist Hedy Philips noted that these space age designs "turned the fashion world upside down."

Rabanne is known for designing the iconic green dress worn by Jane Fonda in the 1968 science-fiction film Barbarella. The singer song-writer Françoise Hardy was a big fan of Rabanne's designs. For Tour 1996 and the resulting Live à Bercy, singer Mylène Farmer had Rabanne do her live-concert stage costumes.


In 1968, he began collaborating with the fragrance company Puig, which resulted in the company marketing of Rabanne's perfumes. In 1969, his first — and arguably most popular — scent, called Calandre, would be released. In 1976, the company built a perfume factory in Chartres, France. In the 1980s, in Brazil, his men's perfume brand registration was forfeited due to a court judgement that the brand was never officially present in Brazil despite heavy advertising and a strong local awareness. The court reasoned that because the Puig's local distributor was smuggling perfume into Brazil, the company could not show proof of payment of import duties. It took six or seven years to recover his brand name in Brazil. In 1994, Rabanne first released his scent called XS.


Paco Rabanne was famous for his eccentric statements on television. He claimed he had lived several lives (including that of a prostitute in the time of Louis XV), to have known Jesus in a previous life, to have seen God three times, to have been visited by extraterrestrials, to have murdered Tutankhamun, and to be 75,000 years old.

In 1999, he announced that, at the age of seventeen, he had had visions of Parisians in flames throwing themselves into the Seine and that after studying other concordant prophecies, he came to the conclusion that the Mir space station was going to crash in France at the time of the solar eclipse of 11 August 1999, its debris causing thousands of deaths in Paris and in the Gers region. On 10 May 1999, he publicly undertook not to make any more predictions if Mir did not crash into Paris on 11 August 1999. However, he claimed to have had an apparition of the Virgin Mary telling him to continue the predictions.

Despite this episode, which tarnished his reputation among the public and the media, he continued to appear regularly in the specialized press, dealing more with the subject of his so-called paranormal experiences than that of high fashion.

Other interests

In 1994, Rabanne wrote the book, Has the Countdown Begun? Through Darkness to Enlightenment.

In 2005, Rabanne opened in Moscow, Russia, the first exhibition of his drawings. His reasoning for showing the drawings then was, "I am 72 years old, and I wanted to present my drawings this year before disappearing from this planet. I have not shown them to anyone except Salvador Dalí 30 years ago, who told me to keep going." One of the black-and-white sketches depicts a child letting go of a dove and a white balloon into the sky, which he said was inspired by the commemoration ceremony for the 2004 Beslan attack in Beslan, North Ossetia, in which 319 hostages were killed, including 186 children, 12 servicemen, and 31 hostage-takers. Rabanne wanted the money that the drawing sold for to go to the women of Beslan.

In 2006, Rabanne visited Kyiv, Ukraine. He summed up the changes since the Orange Revolution: "Ukraine reminds me of a flower unfolding its petals before my very eyes." In the summer of 2012, Arora was succeeded by the German-Colombian fashion designer Lydia Maurer as chief designer. In mid-2013, Belgian and former Balenciaga designer Julien Dossena was appointed creative director of womenswear at Paco Rabanne. Dossena's designs were subsequently praised by fashion critics. The ateliers are located in Paris above the flagship store of Nina Ricci, another Puig fashion company, on Avenue Montaigne. In January 2016, a new store opened on Paris' Rue Cambon, following the closure of the remaining Paco Rabanne boutiques more than ten years earlier.

A re-edit of his classic "le 69" bag was relaunched by Comme des Garçons.

Linking in at time of death

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See also

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