Paco Rabanne – Designer and Brand History

Francisco de Rabanne da Cuervo, known the world over as Paco Rabanne, was born in San Sebastian, Spain on February 18, 1934. During the Spanish civil war, he fled to France together with his mother who was then the Chief Seamstress at the Spanish salon of Balenciaga.

Paco studied architecture at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and graduated in 1964. To finance his studies, he produced fashion accessories made of plastic for Givenchy, Dior and Balenciaga. His career as a designer started in 1965 when he presented his “Unwearables” – a collection of 12 experimental contemporary dresses, which included his first plastic dress. The following year he opened his own outlet that featured metal-linked plastic-disc dresses and accessories made of plastic. His outlandish and flamboyant fashion statements totally veered away from tradition with the use of new materials and earned him the title “enfant terrible” of French fashion.

Soon, Paco Rabanne was a name to reckon with and was first in mind as a costume designer for cinema, theater and ballet. One particular standout costume he designed was for Barbarella which gathered a cult following. Although his style may have been considered bizarre and outlandish, his creations had a major influence in changing the face of fashion by pushing the boundaries of acceptable street clothing.

In 1969, he released his first fragrance, “Calandre.” Today, Paco Rabanne has a popular fragrance range of 36 fragrances.

In the 80s, his creations were set apart by the use of unusual materials such as crinkled paper, cotton toweling, aluminum, patchwork leather, ostrich feathers and upholstery tassels. In 1989, Paco Rabanne was honored with the Golden Thimble Award during the First International Festival of Fashion. A year later, he opened his Paris boutique on the rue de Cherche Midi, the interiors of which were designed and constructed based on themes of metal, glass and light. It was at this point in time when Paco Rabanne came out with his women’s ready-to-wear line that moved away from the usual metallic and plastic materials and started to use softer man-made fabrics like sofrina and amaretto.

Rabanne wrote several books, notable of which were “Trajectoire” (1991) and “Journey: From One Life to Another” (1997) which were personal accounts of his search for spiritual understanding and how he has applied the results of this search to his creative work. These were followed by “Le Temps Presente”, “La Fin des Temps”, “Has The Countdown Begun?” as well as “The Dawn of the Golden Age”. His writings reveal his deep-seated interested in mysticism, astrology, out-of-body experiences and close encounters with God.

In 1999, at the age of 34, Paco Rabanne presented his final collection and retired, leaving the designing for the House of Rabanne to the younger designers and allowing himself the time to explore other art forms. By 2005, he opened the first ever exhibition of his drawings in Moscow, including a sketch dedicated to the 2004 Beslan school massacre. “I want this drawing to be sold and the money to be given to the women of Beslan,” the designer said.

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