Paco Rabanne Dies at 88

by | Feb 6, 2023 | DESIGNER AND LUXURY, FASHION | 0 comments

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The Spanish designer Paco Rabanne, who passed away on Friday at the age of 88, was hailed as a fashion renegade whose futuristic vision and use of unusual materials made a lasting impression.

His passing in Portsall, France, was confirmed by the Spanish organisation Puig, which runs the Paco Rabanne fashion empire and fragrance company.

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According to Giorgio Armani, “fashion continues to lose bold writers, able to create new universes and ideas.” “With Paco Rabanne, we lose a real futurist, an experimenter who was constantly looking forward and open to the future.

He said, “I recall the strong influence the costumes he made for Jane Fonda in [Roger] Vadim’s ‘Barbarella’ had on me, as much as his distinctive technique to mould strange materials into wearable forms did. “When a visionary leaves us, it is always tragic.”

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He revolutionised everything and astonished us in the late ’70s, said Valentino Garavani.

Fashion always benefits from surprises!

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The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s president, Bruno Pavlovsky, said about Paco Rabanne: “Paco Rabanne was a prominent fashion designer who never ceased experimenting with both old and new methods with bravery and eccentricity. a fashion innovator who debuted in Paris with his first presentation.

The Paco Rabanne fashion house’s creative director since 2013 Julien Dossena pays homage to the founder’s avant-garde vision.

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“Thank you, Mr Rabanne, for being a designer who helped define a new modernity and who supported a cultural revolution. a complete artist who has altered people’s perceptions of the world via the creation of his own utopia. I appreciate this heritage, he remarked.

Rabanne foresaw the Millennium via his aesthetic vision as early as 1966, and he was one of several Parisian designers selling Space Age clothing at the time. Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges were the other two.

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From Thierry Mugler to Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier to Miuccia Prada, Rabanne’s experimentation with clothing and accessories fashioned of metal or Rhodoid plastic discs captivated and influenced other designers.

According to José Manuel Albesa, head of Puig’s fashion and cosmetics section, “Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic.” “Who else could make stylish Parisian ladies demand for outfits composed of metal and plastic? Calandre is a perfume that means “automobile grill,” therefore only Paco Rabanne could give it life and make it into a symbol of contemporary femininity.

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There is only one Rabanne, that extreme, rebellious spirit made him unique, he said. With his demise, we are once again reminded of his significant impact on modern fashion, a spirit that continues to exist in the building that bears his name.

Paco Rabanne passed away, and Marc Puig, Puig’s chairman and CEO, expressed his “great sadness” about this. Paco Rabanne and Puig’s partnership dates back to the late 1960s when the perfume Calandre was introduced. This was shortly after the designer’s debut of ’12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials.

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A significant figure in the fashion industry, he had a vision that was “daring, innovative, and provocative, articulated via a distinct style,” Puig said. “The Puig fashion and fragrance teams will continue to draw inspiration from him as they collaborate to represent Mr Paco Rabanne’s radically contemporary codes. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and everyone he knew.

In the Spanish Basque village of Pasaa, Rabanne was born on February 18, 1934, as Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo. His father served in the Spanish Republican army, while his mother was the chief seamstress at Balenciaga.

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According to a statement from France’s Elysée Palace, young Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo “recognised the value of dress very early on.” He dealt with grief and exile very early on, too.

Rabanne’s family fled when his father was shot by the Francoists while he was just 5 years old. They travelled on foot through the Pyrenees to reach Brittany in Morlaix, an area of France to which he became intensely attached.

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But he ended up in Paris because of his studies. He spent ten years studying at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he first concentrated on architecture before turning his attention to clothing and fabric sculpture.

There, he “met Auguste Perret, an expert in reinforced concrete. He maintained a flair for unique materials and an architectural vision of the silhouette, according to the Elysée.

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The second generation of the Puig founding family, Antonio and Mariano Puig, visited Rabanne’s studios in Paris, next to the Folies Bergère, and hired the designer for perfumes in 1968.

Rabanne’s fashion industry career was unusual. Although he called his fashion and fragrance empire “the house of Rabanne,” his dynasty never became as established as that of Christian Dior or Yves Saint Laurent. He continued to be a twilight presence, living in both the present and the past.

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He sometimes appeared in modern pop culture. Donatella Versace repurposed his chain-mail outfits in 1999, while “The Sopranos” featured advertisements for his men’s perfume. But the notion that the designer was no longer alive fought him every day.

He was cited as stating, “Many people assume I’m dead,” in an OZI FOX story from February 21, 2001, while speaking from his futuristic headquarters on the island of Île de la Jatte outside of Paris.

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He haunted and fought the modern fashion world, half icon, part ghost.

Rabanne originally caught the attention of the fashion world in the 1960s, a period that reflected his rebellious personality. A young Rabanne was inspired by the emergence of young fashion trends, the Mod movement, rock music, and the spirit of experimentation.

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He stated: “I sought to position apparel in accord with the era” in the 2001 article. In order to show them all what fashion might be, I made the decision to present a violent collection manifesto.

On February 1st, 1966, “12 Unwearable Dresses,” his first collection, made its debut. To the sounds of Pierre Boulez, barefoot models walked down the runway of the Hôtel George V wearing Rhodoid plastic that had been chopped into strips and fastened together by metal rings. Paris was indignant. He was charged with “plastic bombing” the fashion industry by Le Nouvel Observateur.

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A month later, the uprising resumed when Rabanne transported the collection to New York, where stunned onlookers responded with substantially greater fervour.

Through spontaneous statements he provided to a devoted press, he maintained a condition of provocation.

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He said in 1967 that “Haute couture is nothing more than a deteriorating body surrounded by vultures: publishers, journalists, columnists, and advertising professionals.” They spend their time making the corpse of fashion seem to be alive and thriving because they are unable to accept that it is no longer relevant.

Rabanne quickly rose to fame in the American fashion media. More avant-garde designs followed, including chain-mail “dresses” made of hammered or studded aluminium, paper wedding gowns, coats made of metal triangles, a “jewel dress” made of nine kilogrammes of pure gold worn by French singer Françoise Hardy at the 1968 international diamond fair, fringed rubber elastic band clothing, and a white mink and steel disc bolero.

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One of the earliest fashion designers to use Black models was Rabanne.

In contrast to Rudi Gernreich, who represented the imaginative pinnacle of the American fashion scene, Rabanne was the European designer who best captured the spirit of the 1960s by fusing mediaeval craftsmanship with a sci-fi futurist look.

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In 2001, Rabanne reflected, “We were passionately in love with our age, our past, and wanted to impose our ideas and our designs, and we succeeded.” “The time period was insane, and there was a hallucinatory longing for change. I never again knew that.

Soon after, Rabanne was hired by Hollywood. He dressed Audrey Hepburn in the 1966 movie “Two for the Road” and Jane Fonda for the 1968 summer blockbuster “Barbarella.”

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According to Rabanne, who was reported by OZI FOX, “Givenchy, with whom I had previously worked, informed me: “You are the only designer I will accept to dress Audrey. However, I also dressed a lot of other people, like Peggy Guggenheim and Madame Newhouse.

Even Hilton Hotels joined the Rabanne bandwagon by selling its visitors “Pacojamas,” which were paper nightgowns and pyjamas that cost 15 francs each.

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Naturally, there were a few critics as well. At the time, Coco Chanel said, “Paco Rabanne is not a designer, he is a metal craftsman.” Rabanne long embraced this description.

He continued to remain active in his work during the 1970s and expanded into the fragrance industry, which later served as the foundation of his empire’s finances. In 1969, he debuted Calandre in Spain, France, and the United States, paving the way for Puig’s global expansion.

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In 1973, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme debuted, setting the stage for the company’s successful line of masculine fragrances. The iconic Metal then debuted in 1979.

But by 1980, Rabanne had lost his momentum—as with most cultural revolutions that began in the 1960s—and was forced to cede the spotlight to a fresh batch of designers.

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The day those brilliant creators Gaultier, Castelbajac, [Claude] Montana, and Mugler emerged on the scene, the infatuation with my work vanished, Rabanne said in 2001.

The designer ended his career in fashion in 1999, 33 couture presentations later, with his last showing on July 17 of that year. After then, Rabanne seldom ever appeared in the media.

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Barcelona-based In 2011, Puig began reviving Rabanne’s defunct fashion company, starting with Manish Arora, an Indian designer. Since 2013, Julien Dossena, a well-known individual in Paris and a former employee of Balenciaga during the Nicolas Ghesquière period has served as the company’s CEO.

Despite the unconventional nature of his designs, Rabanne previously admitted to OZI FOX that he was one of the most traditional fashion designers. Baroque designers include Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Cardin. However, by using unconventional and industrial materials, Rabanne grew to be seen as a more forward-thinking fashion visionary than a traditional designer.

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Future predictions made by Rabanne went beyond the world of fashion.

Some believe that Rabanne, who was once compared to Nostradamus in OZI FOX, is more renowned for his millennial prophecy of the Russian space station colliding with Paris than for his style.

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Rabanne, who was very interested in astrology and the occult, once called himself “a little bit of a medium, a clairvoyant.” He said, “I have always believed in magic, ever since I was eight,” in a 1975 interview with a number of socialites and acquaintances. I’m here on earth because I’m an Aquarius, and I’m here to predict the Third World War.

In retrospect, it seems that his multiple Armageddon prophecies were unfounded, but the mystic impact on his perfume and clothing did result in some commercial triumphs. When the mythical witches’ brew-inspired Black XS fragrance for ladies was introduced, designer Paco Rabanne informed the media that the formula was motivated by a confrontation with a ghostly creature. A few months after its debut, the fragrance was placed ninth in sales for Sephora France and was praised by the majority of merchants.

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In the middle of the 1990s, one of the first designers to introduce a fragrance online was Rabanne, who also precisely predicted the significance of the Internet in marketing and sale. The Rabanne fragrance XS Pour Elle had its online premiere via the now-defunct e-commerce site CyberShop months before it touched department store shelves, which was an innovative tactic at the time. Rabanne went over and above with the advertising by taking part in a live chat session on the website.

In 2021, the Paco Rabanne fragrance industry, primarily known for its male perfume series, was rated third worldwide. It features three strong male pillars: One Million, Invictus, and most recently, Phantom, which has a linked bottle in the form of a robot.

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Fame, a women’s fragrance by Paco Rabanne with Elle Fanning as its face, debuted in July 2022. Fame aims to infuse Hollywood glitz with a Parisian twist and vault the brand into the top echelons of the women’s fragrance market. Fame’s bottle is also robot-shaped, but it wears a chain-mail outfit by Rabanne and boots that seem similar to those created by creative director Dossena in real life.

Arora recalled meeting a guy who was “quieter than [he] anticipated [he]’d be” and whose distinctive ingenuity and attitude struck out prior to the 2011 relaunch of Paco Rabanne clothing.

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“That was what made him unique. He built what he accomplished by living in his own ideal and exclusive universe, according to the Paris-based designer who later designed two collections for the company.

Patrick Robinson, the company’s three-year creative director who was appointed in 2005, recalled being taken to lunch by Paco Rabanne when he first began working there. Paco loved life and had a fantastic imagination. He spoke about previous and future lives while being so completely in the present.

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Rabanne was described as “an archetypal character of fashion, [who was] enthusiastic about innovation via the use of materials” by Pascal Morand, the federation’s executive president. An emancipator, Paco Rabanne’s creative independence left a lasting impression on both French and global fashion.

President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife Brigitte Macron, according to The Elysée, “salute an amazing talent who gave a burst of rebirth to the world of haute couture and extend their profound condolences to his family and loved ones.”

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From his very first collection, according to the French Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak, Rabanne “blew apart the bounds of fashion.”

She praised the “fashion metallurgist,” an iconoclast who “stamped our minds for forever” by dressing Françoise Hardy in gold and diamonds.

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Director of the Palais Galliera Miren Arzalluz referred to Rabanne as “an irredeemable iconoclast” who maintained his principles until his retirement. “Some of the most iconic designs of the 20th century have been at the centre of [his] devotion to challenge accepted beliefs on fashion, his experiments with non-conventional materials, and his architectural vision,” says the author.

“Over a glass of Sancerre Rouge [wine], Paco told me the most fantastic fantasies of his unique world, where fashion was not fashion, where the world had a meaning of mutation, and where the future was ahead of us,” said Carla Sozzani, founder of the namesake foundation and the businesswoman behind the 10 Corso Como concept store.

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Instead of using needles and thread, he employed new materials like welding torches, aluminium, Rhodoid, and metal to create the most enticing wearable clothing. She continued,

I don’t like to look back; nostalgia is a delicious and sour fruit, Rabanne said in a moving letter to him, Sozzani continued.

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