Paco Rabanne

Tonie Ong

Paco Rabanne Collection

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Articles on Paco Rabanne

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Fashion is art, and a lot of designers have attested to that. For them, fashion is more than just a beautiful garment or a product that will help them earn millions of dollars—it’s their craft. One of the key reasons why fashion is an art is that a lot of designers have used materials other artists of different mediums have used. They’ve gone beyond fabric and worked with materials such as metal, plastic, paper, and many more. From the avant-garde labels to the grand couturiers, designers have experimented a lot through the years. One of the most prominent to have done so was Paco Rabanne.

The designer and his name are associated with the 1960’s and 70’s when fashion was becoming a bigger industry in of itself. Around the time, the biggest designers were straying away from the haute couture sensibilities from the preceding decades and were creating new and daring looks. It was also at this time that ready-to-wear was already starting to surpass haute couture. Paco Rabanne is known for his futuristic designs, as well as his use of unconventional materials—one of the first to do so. He made his pieces both artistic and wearable, becoming one of the most influential designers of the late 20th century.

Journey to His First Fashion Show

Paco Rabanne was born on the 18th of February, 1934, in Gipuzkoa, Spain. His father, a Republican colonel, died during the Spanish Civil War, leading Paco and the rest of his family to flee to France in 1939. His mother worked as a seamstress for fellow Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, and it was through her that he got his first whiff of fashion. However, by the age of 18, he studied architecture at the prestigious École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. To help finance his studies and earn more money, he created jewelry and designed buttons on the side.

After graduating, he applied to numerous couture houses, lending his talent of designing buttons and creating jewelled pieces. Although a lot closed their doors on him, he was eventually entertained by houses such as Balenciaga—where his mother used to work, Schiaparelli, and Givenchy. In 1966, he presented his first fashion show, entitled “Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials.” The show was the first of its kind—making use of background music, having models of color on the runway, and the pieces were all unconventional materials glued and wired together. Although completely wild and new, Rabanne was an instant hit in the fashion industry.

Significance in the 60s and 70s Fashion

Just by his first show, Paco Rabanne already revolutionized the fashion industry. The modern fashion show, as we know it, started with his first ever presentation. The music, the diverse models, and the energy that were all absent during the heyday of haute couture in the 50’s suddenly became the norm from the 60’s onwards. Furthermore, alongside other designers André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin, Rabanne started the “Space Age” movement in the fashion of the 60’s and 70’s. Although he cites his present-day environment as his constant inspiration, Rabanne’s clothes gave life to a new style that many of that time’s, as well as ours, interpret as futuristic fashion.

Famous Muses Throughout the Years

Although his clothes are not as wearable as other designer brands, the label still saw admiration from a number of prominent women. Well-known art collector Peggy Guggenheim was said to be the designer’s first client. Much like what she bought for her collections, she wore the brand’s extremely artistic pieces. British model Jean Shrimpton was often photographed in Paco Rabanne—creating iconic images stamped on the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. French singer and youth icon Françoise Hardy was also a fan, often wearing his art pieces to parties and evening galas. For one of her most iconic films, Barbarella, Hollywood actress Jane Fonda wore costumes designed by the Spanish designer.


Because his clothes are often unwearable, Rabanne releases a series of fragrances to keep the commercial side of the business booming. In 1973, he released“Paco Rabanne Pour Homme”, his first fragrance and a scent for his male customers. Six years later, in 1979, he released Métal, a fragrance for “young women who love wearing metal”—a humorous quip on the criticism he’d receive during that time. The company’s pioneer unisex fragrance debuted in 1996, called “Paco”. It was packaged in a metal bottle that can be recycled—staying true to the label’s principles. His next unisex scent would be Ultraviolet, but it was first introduced as a women’s perfume in 1999 and was followed by a men’s version in 2001.

Today, the label still stands as a testament to the possibilities of combining art and fashion. The designer heading the brand is Julien Dossena and he has been keeping the founder’s legacy alive. Throughout the years, numerous designers have been influenced by Paco Rabanne—the likes of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons, and many more. The designer’s confidence in using unorthodox material broke down barriers of what a fashion designer can achieve for the sake of the art of fashion.

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