Paco Rabanne is one of the world’s most popular designers also known as the “l’enfant terrible” (unruly child) of the French fashion scene in the 60s. He began in the industry creating clothing decorations and accessories before exaggerating these same elements to create bold designs. Using unusual techniques and materials, he created startling garments that pushed the boundaries between what was considered wearable and not. Behind his extraordinary and eye-catching creations, here are the following facts:
1. He and his mother fled their homeland during the Spanish Civil War.
- Rabanne’s mother was the former chief seamstress for Balenciaga in Spain. Her work with the fashion house would later influence the style of his designs.
- His father was a Republican colonel who was executed by troops under Francisco Franco, the general who became the dictator of Spain after winning the war.
2. The name Paco Rabanne is a pseudonym.
- He was born in Saint Sebastian, Spain under the name Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo. The name “Paco” is a Spanish nickname for Francisco.
- He used the first letters of his names to create his first alias, Franck Rabanne. The name was also created to be made of a lucky thirteen letters.
3. Rabanne’s formal education was in architecture.
- He supported his studies at École des Beaux-Arts by drawing shoes for Charles Jourdan and handbags for Roger Model, signing the illustrations as Franck Rabanne.
- Rabanne’s background led to his highly unusual approach and techniques in creating clothing. He used hard, divisible materials and linked them together using rivets, chains, and wires.
4. He began his fashion career by creating accessories and details.
- With their pool of talent and artistry, Rabanne and his mother handcrafted unique embroidery and buttons for haute couture houses.
- His first major success was in creating large geometric and bright-colored jewelry made of rhodoïd. His clients included Dior, Givenchy, and Balenciaga.
5. Metal elements are a signature of Rabanne’s creations.
- He experimented with metal rectangles and disks usually found in mail armor, hammered plates, and butchers aprons. He repurposed these materials to create dresses, jewelry, and decorations.
- Creating these clothes required directly shaping the parts onto a woman’s body. This prompted Coco Chanel to call him “the metal worker” instead of a couturier.
6. Rabanne also used plastic and other unusual materials.
- His first collection, called “Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials”, featured the first of his many plastic dresses.
- Rabanne also used other materials such as patchwork leather, paper, coconuts, ostrich feathers, and laser discs. He switched to softer man-made fabrics later in his career, upon reaching a “spiritual understanding” in his creative work.
7. He is also known for his shocking and controversial fashion shows.
- The dancers of the Crazy Horse Saloon, a famous Parisian cabaret, performed strip tease to model one of his beachwear collections.
- Rabanne was also the first designer to use black female models, a move that was considered outrageous in the 60s.
With creativity and innovation, Paco Rabanne reimagines, recycles, and redirects materials from their original purpose to create something never seen before. Fantastic or outrageous, his works never fail to capture attention and the imagination.