Paco Rabanne

Paco Rabanne


  1. The story
  2. The first collection
  3. Experiments and research
  4. The 1980s
  5. The 1990s
  6. The 2000s

The story 

Francesco Rabaneda y Cuervo, known as Paco Rabanne, was born in 1934 in the Basque Country in Spain, who left at the age of five with his mother, a seamstress from Balenciaga, to escape the civil war. He arrived in France, where he took the name Paco Rabanne, and died on 3 February 2023. 

Paco Rabanne
Paco Rabanne

From 1952 to 1964, Rabanne studied architecture at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In the 60s, to finance his studies, he created models and designs for Charles Jourdan and Roger Model, starting to make a name for himself in the fashion world.
In 1959, in fact, Women’s Wear Daily published a series of haute couture profiles designed by Franck Rabanne: it is the first time that his name is publicly released. In parallel, the designer creates luxury handmade accessories for Givenchy, Pierre Cardin and Courrèges.   In 1966 he founded the fashion house Paco Rabanne. 

The first collection

In 1966 Rabanne presented his first collection, a real poster: Twelve Importable Dresses In Contemporary Materials. Decorated with sequins, layers of aluminium and rhodoïd slabs, the clothes break ties with the aesthetics of the time to become a form of expression that contains reminiscences of the visual arts. After this collection, Chanel reacts with dismay, shouting scandal and claiming that Rabanne “is not a couturier, but a metallurgist.”

However, the young Rabanne keeps a cool head and continues with his bold and provocative experiments. In any case, his work will upset the foundations of the structure of haute couture, adamant in its stubborn traditions.

Experiments and research

Next, the designer carries out a series of innovative research on materials from around the world. She uses aluminium, one of her emblematic metals, for a mini dress decorated with panels that seems to anticipate the Era of Space. It is one of the most photographed garments of 1968.

Considering him truly the precursor of a revolutionary concept, Salvador Dali says of him: “He is the second greatest genius in Spain, after me.” But the designer does not work only with metal, as not to mention the dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Two on the street, made from small plastic discs and which is now part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York. At this point, Paco Rabanne decides to vote his life to the world of fashion. 

Françoise Hady in Paco Rabanne
Françoise Hady wearing Paco Rabanne

Since 1967, Rabanne has moved to Bergère, Paris, in a setting made of steel tubes and black walls. Two years later, in 1969, he opened a perfume department in his own company. The first fragrance, Calandre, is followed by Paco Rabanne for men in 1973. In 1971, the designer became a member of the Chamber of Commerce Haute Couture.

The 1980s

In 1976, Rabanne designed a ready-to-wear line for men. In the early 1980s, the brand’s haute couture collections were enriched with new and unconventional materials: luminescent fabrics, metallic sheets, woven faux suede metal, wooden pearl curtains, newspapers, sponges, water bottles and much more.

A few years later, in 1986, the brand was bought by the Puig group, which kept Rabanne in charge of the artistic direction. 

The 1990s

These include Naomi Campbell who in 1991 wore the iconic swimsuit made of metal mesh.   The designer was an instigator of a clothing concept that was part of the artistic, technical and sociological trends of an era. 

Rabanne has won a wide range of awards, including the Dé D’Or. His career continued with the creation of new perfumes, which are naturally bottled in bottles made from recycled aluminum. The designer constantly looks to the future, theorizing a simplified formula for clothing that is more in line with the biorhythms of humanity.

In pursuing this aim, he returns to his idea of clothes shaped through recycling, in a biodegradable process.

In 1999, Rabanne retired to pursue artistic activities.

The 2000s

Haute couture collections ceased, but prêt-à-porter saw a new development under the artistic direction of Rosemary Rodriguez in 2000 and Patrick Robinson in 2005.

2006, sees the interruption of the company’s business. After a five-year hiatus, in February 2011 Manish Arora is the new creative director and presents, in October of the same year, the Paco Rabanne 2012 Spring/Summer collection. However, on May 4, 2012, Arora announced her departure, replaced by Lydia Maurer. After a year in this position, the period in which he signed the Spring/Summer 2013 and Fall/Winter 2013/2014 collections, he left his post. During her work, the German designer revisited the iconic mini dress in wrought metal typical of the Rabanne style of the 60s.

Since 2013, Paco Rabanne has been led by Julien Dossena, who, after working at Balenciaga, arrives as creative director of the house.   Dossena recreates the style of the French fashion house, offering a futuristic and modern vision of fashion, and giving a new relevance to the avant-garde spirit of the brand.

Paco Rabanne RTW Fall 21
Paco Rabanne RTW Fall 21



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