Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne dies aged 88

Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne, known for his space-age metallic dresses, best-selling fragrances and eccentric advertisements, has died aged 88.

His death was announced on Friday in a statement from the Puig group, which owns the Paco Rabanne brand.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Paco Rabanne,” the group’s chief executive, Marc Puig, said in a statement. “Through his great personality, he demonstrated a unique aesthetic and an intense, revolutionary and provocative vision of the world of fashion.”

The house of Paco Rabanne paid tribute to the man it called “a visionary designer and founder”. He said: “Among the most significant fashion figures of the 20th century, her legacy will be a constant source of inspiration. We are grateful to Monsieur Rabanne for establishing our avant-garde heritage and for defining a future full of possibilities.”

A model wearing a metal dress designed by Paco Rabanne in March 1968.

A model wearing a metal dress designed by Paco Rabanne in March 1968. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Rabanne Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo was born in the Basque Country in February 1934, the son of a Republican soldier father killed by Franco and a mother who was a “petit main”, or couture seamstress, for Cristóbal Balenciaga.

Despite becoming one of the most famous fashion names of the 1960s, Rabanne came to fashion quite late. After studying to become an architect at L’école Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1950s, he went on to work in architecture for almost 10 years. During that time, he sketched but it wasn’t until the 1960s that he started making clothes and accessories.

He started with accessories, designing a small collection of accessories and large plastic buttons, which he sold to various couture houses, before showing his first fashion presentation in 1964 called “Twelve Experimental Dress”. Even then, he did not see himself as a pure fashion designer, preferring to work with interesting materials to create clothes that were as much engineered as they were designed.

He gained fame two years later in 1966, with his first couture collection called “Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials”, apparently a series of mini dresses made of plastic strips and discs held together with large metal rings, after the show, Rabanne declared. to a shocked audience of the French press: ”Who cares if no one can wear my dresses. They are statements.” Pan was added to the collection but put his name squarely on the map.

Along with designers such as Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges, Rabanne was part of an emerging group of avant garde couturiers who matched traditional couture techniques with space-age design. Rabanne went a step further, preferring to use post-war materials such as plastics, metals and buttons and elaborate joining methods, apparently to create women’s armour. As Coco Chanel once said of him: ”He is not a couturier. He is a metal worker.”

Rabanne’s shows were always spectacular events, and he was one of the first designers to introduce soundtracks to shows. Along with Yves Saint Lauren he was also one of the first designers to cast non-white models on the 1960s catwalk.

He retired in 1999, having dressed Mia Farrow, Jane Birkin, Audrey Hepburn, Peggy Guggenheim and Jane Fonda at various points. He is often mistakenly credited with designing the costumes for Fonda’s science fiction film Barbarella, but in fact, while his sci-fi aesthetic was a source of inspiration, Fonda’s mini-dresses were designed by French costume designer Jacques Fonteray.

Towards the end of the 1960s, he teamed up with the fashion and perfumery business Puig to develop the perfumes he later became famous for.

Although his designs were unconventional, he once told WWD: “I’m one of the most classic fashion creators.”

At the end of the last century, Rabanne predicted that the Mir space station would fall to Earth and destroy Paris. He also claimed to have arrived on this planet 78,000 years ago, which led to his nickname “Wacko Paco”.

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