Paco Rabanne - Biography

Francisco de Rabanne da Cuervo was born in San Sebastian, Spain in 1934. He was called Paco for short. His mother was Chief Seamstress at the Spanish salon of Balenciaga. During the Spanish civil war, the family moved to France.

Paco Rabanne

Rabanne studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris graduating in 1964. His earliest contribution to fashion were his bold plastic jewellery and buttons which he sold to Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy.
n 1965 he started his career as a designer by presenting a collection of 12 contemporary dresses which he called "the Unwearables". These included his first plastic dress. In 1966 Paco Rabanne opened his own outlet at the age of 32, where he earned international repute for his metal-linked plastic-disc dresses, sun goggles and jewellery made of plastic in primary colours. Paco Rabanne's dresses made of small plastic tiles linked together by chains, stole the show in Paris. n the 60's Paco Rabanne was in demand as a costume designer for the cinema, theatre and ballet. In the seventies, Paco Rabanne was the first to use black girls as models, which was thought to be quite outrageous then. One of his most famous outfits is the costume for Jane Fonda in the science-fiction film "Barbarella" in 1968, shown on the right. In 1970 Rabanne pioneered fake suede dresses, knit and fur coats, dresses with ribbons and feathers or tassels linked to provide suppleness. By 1975 he was still bending hard-edged materials into dresses, but very few people wore them. Women had discovered the appeal of softer, ethnic looks.
Paco Rabanne's designs were worn by many famous women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Brigette Bardot and Francoise Hardy. He designed for 35 films and numerous ballets and plays. His sharp-edged plastic dresses declined in the 80's and he started designing softer creations. In 1989 Paco Rabanne was awarded the Golden Thimble at the lst International Festival of Fashion. Collections during the 80's were constructed out of crinkled paper, strips of aluminium, rough cotton towelling, Perspex, maze-like configurations of patchwork leather, ostrich feathers and upholstery tassels. In 1990 Rabanne inaugurated his new boutique on the rue de Cherche Midi, Paris. The architect Eric Raffy designed the interiors based on 3 themes, metal, glass and light. During the 90's Paco Rabanne has diversified away from metallic and plastic materials only, and started to present collections in softer man-made fabrics like sofrina and amaretta.
Paco had his first supernatural experience when he was only 7 years old and it was to influence him for the rest of his life. In his personal life, Paco has been interested in mysticism, astrology, and other such subjects. He has given various magazine interviews talking about vibrations, out-of-body experiences and close encounters with God. He is also a vegetarian. Paco has written a book called "Journey" which is a personal acount of his search for spiritual understanding and tells how he has applied the results of his search to his creative fashion work.
In 1999, Paco Rabanne presented his final collection and retired. Aurelien Tremblay and Christophe Decamin will design ready-to-wear for the house of Rabanne and Oliver Debias will design the Paco line. The Barcelona, Spain, financial house of Puig has bought out the house of Paco Rabanne in 2000. A major retrospective exhibition of the design work of Paco Rabanne has been mounted at the Galleria Carla Sozzani in Milan, from September to November 2002.

The Rabanne collection for Fall, designed by Rosemary Rodriguez, was shown during Paris Fashion Week in March 2003. The outfit on the left is from the collection. Metal mesh is still at the heart but she used it for accessories mostly. Long crisply tailored white coats were shown over brief silver dresses. She updated the garments so that geometric shapes had modern proportions and pearls were also used to trace graphic patterns on the linear clothes.

During Paris Fashion Week in October 2003, Rosemary showed the Rabanne collection for next Spring. A line of dresses from this collection are shown on the right. Rosemary seems to understand the hard shiny metallic heritage of the house and is integrating it with sportswear. Energetic, athletic and with movement were the descriptions of her action pieces which included hooded tops, white parkas and trenchcoats and she seems to be working wonders at the house.
Rosemary Rodriguez presented her Rabanne Fall collection in Paris during Fashion Week in March 2004. She just seems to get better and better. She is not going for the hard-edged futurism, but designing cuddly white furs with metallic effects embedded in the fluffy fabric, like this gorgeous multi-coloured fur coat shown on the left. Paco himself is full of praise for her efforts, and said it was really modern.

During Paris Fashion Week in October 2004, Rosemary Rodrigues showed her Rabanne collection for next Spring. An outfit from this collection is shown on the left. Even Paco himself seemed impressed by her ability to include all this season's trends into the metallic Rabanne world. The soft Grecian draped dresses, with just a touch of silver, the hot spicy Indian prints for sari-style dresses and the use of crochet and macrame were just some of the ways that Rosemary has given new life to the house without betraying the spirit of the Paco Rabanne heritage.
Patrick Robinson, the new American designer for the house of Paco Rabanne, showed his first Autumn/Winter collection during Paris Fashion Week in March 2005. He had dug deep into the archives and absorbed the spirit of the house. But he avoided too much metal mesh, silvered surfaces and geometric discs and squares used in earlier seasons. Robinson created dresses out of layers of silver grey satin, and used crystal bib necklaces. As this is a winter collection, he used lots of fur. They were smart elegant clothes such as a lacy blouson top and pants, slim skirts with crystal buttons at the back split and a little black dress with crystal neckline. The Spanish Puig fragrance giant which now owns the house of Paco Rabanne will be happy with these wearable pleasant clothes which are sexy enough for modern life.

Patrick Robinson presented the Paco Rabanne Spring/Summer 2006 collection during Paris Fashion Week in October 2005. A dress from the collection is shown on the left. It is a rather odd shaped orange balloon dress with white edging.. Apparently Patrick ordered 500 silk kimonos from a textile dealer, sliced them up and pieced them together with metal and plastic discs that the house of Rabanne is so known for. No two dresses look alive, because all the fabrics are individual. Most dresses were above the knee, many with empire waists. His stovepipe pants, short tulip skirts and sporty tank tops all looked sexy. It was a good mix of old and new, East and West.