Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born creator known as the Space Age designer, has died in Portsall, on the western tip of Brittany in France. He was 88.
One of the most path-breaking designers when it came to use of futuristic materials, Rabanne was also one of the most successful designers in fashion when it came to developing modern fragrances.
His death was confirmed by the Puig perfume group, which controls Paco Rabanne and several other fashion houses including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten and Nina Ricci.
“It is with profound sadness that Puig announces the passing of Mr. Paco Rabanne,” the group said in a release.
The collaboration between the designer and the beauty and fashion company started in late 1960s when Antonio and Mariano Puig, members of the second generation of the Puig family visited Mr. Rabanne at his offices near the Folies Bergère, in Paris and sealed a trustful and durable alliance. A relationship that established an enduring dialogue between Paris and Barcelona.
“The President of the Republic and his wife salute an extraordinary artist who brought a wind of renewal to the world of haute couture, and send their sincere condolences to his family and loved ones,” read a statement from the office of President Emmanuel Macron.
Recalling his early forays on the runway, the Élysée Palace added: “His “Twelve experimental dresses in contemporary materials”, presented in 1964 by barefoot models, followed, in 1966, by “Twelve importable dresses”, which he paraded to the equally audacious music of Pierre Boulez, were the manifesto of a fashion that jostled utilitarian constraints to elevate clothing to the status of an object of art.”
“He was a couturier who did not sew, but who welded, hammered, assembled, who played with the texture of the skin as with fabric, and who reinvented what dressing meant. With his rigid materials and his chainmail creations, Paco Rabanne stood up against the stiffness and heaviness of an environment he saw as a straitjacket, and whose reactions were contrasting to say the least,” the release from the Élysée Palace added.
Known for occasionally making controversial comments, including predicting the end of the world, Rabanne wrote an important chapter in the history of fashion.
“Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic. Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women clamor for dresses made of plastic and metal? Who but Paco Rabanne could imagine a fragrance called Calandre – the word means ‘automobile grill,’ you know – and turn it into an icon of modern femininity? That radical, rebellious spirit set him apart: there is only one Rabanne. With his passing we are reminded once again of his enormous influence on contemporary fashion, a spirit that lives on in the House that bears his name,” declared Jose Manuel Albesa, president of the beauty and fashion division at Puig.
Added Marc Puig, chairman and CEO: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Paco Rabanne. The history of Puig and Paco Rabanne began in the late 1960s with the launch of Calandre, the perfume created soon after the designer released ‘12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials.’ A major personality in fashion, his was a daring, revolutionary and provocative vision, conveyed through a unique aesthetic… I extend my sincere condolences to his family and to those who have known him.”
He was born on February 18, 1934, in Pasaia, in the province of Guipuzcoa in the Spanish Basque Country. From the beginning Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo – to give him his real name – was immersed in the world of couture as his mother worked for Cristobal Balenciaga.
Upon the death of her husband, a colonel of King Alfonso XIII who was shot by the Francoists, his mother fled Spain with her four children. They crossed the Pyrenees on foot and arrived in France, taking refuge in Brittany, near Morlaix.
As a result, Paco Rabanne grew up reflecting the views of both his mother, a committed socialist, and the religious beliefs of his grandmother, a fervent Catholic.
He began in fashion working for Givenchy, Dior and Balenciaga, before founding his own house in 1966, using highly unconventional materials – plastic, paper, metal and chains. A DNA which has continued in the work of his house’s current acclaimed designer Julien Dossena.
Stars like Francoise Hardy adored the revolutionary couture of Rabanne, whose most famous single look was probably dressing Jane Fonda in Barbarella.
Though he made his fortune in fragrance and not in fashion. Even today, Paco Rabanne’s fragrances (Black XS, Lady Million, 1 Million) are among the best-selling scents in the industry.