Paco Rabanne is one of the most enigmatic personalities in fashion. Sometimes a fashion designer, sometimes a perfumer, the great Spanish creator has shaped the cultural landscape of his time in his own image: with audacity and avant-gardism.
Paco Rabanne, whose real name is Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo, is one of the world’s greatest couturiers and perfumers. Born in Spain in 1934, he strongly influenced the fashion of the 1960s. Son of an officer who died during the Civil War, his family moved to France after a period of internment in camps.
Since his early childhood, the young Paco Rabanne was immersed in the world of fashion. Until 1936, his mother was a first hand at Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre, the fashion designer nicknamed “The Master”. After graduating from high school, Paco Rabanne studied architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
He financed his graduate studies with his fashion sketches, including designs for bags for Roger Model and shoes for Charles Jourdan. In 1959, under the pseudonym Franck Rabanne, he designed seven dresses that were published in Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) magazine.
In 1963, his garden sculpture won the Paris Biennale and was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. He finished his studies the same year and turned to making whimsical accessories for Haute Couture houses such as Nina Ricci and Balenciaga. In partnership with renowned ready-to-wear designers, he created “Pacotilles”, accessories made of Rhodoid, a material much appreciated by Paco Rabanne.
His first collection was unveiled at the George-V Hotel in February 1966 and was entitled “Manifeste“. The futuristic-inspired collection included 12 importable dresses, and used sequin and Rhodoid as materials, already affirming Paco Rabanne‘s artistic touch. In April of the same year, a second collection using the codes of the previous one was presented at the Crazy Horse Saloon.
In October, the designer began designing pieces for the big screen, seen in films such as Two or Three Things I Know About Her by Jean-Luc Godard, Les Aventuriers by Robert Enrico, Voyage à deux by Stanley Donen, or even Casino Royale by John Huston.
Perfumery has not always been an obvious choice for Paco Rabanne. Thus, it was not until 1973 that his first perfume, “Paco Rabanne” for men, was released. The international success of his perfume line pushed him to create the perfumes “Metal”, “Night”, “Sport” and “Ténéré” between 1979 and 1988.
He only turned to men’s fashion in 1976, when he launched his first ready-to-wear line for men. He presented his women’s ready-to-wear line from 1990 to 1998, while his success in Haute Couture was still going strong. He even won the prestigious Dé d’or for his Spring Summer 1990 collection.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports awarded him the Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts in 2000. He retired from Haute Couture between 1999 and 2009, but remained in the ready-to-wear industry, which received a new impetus with the changes in artistic direction.
Beyond his work as a designer and his perfumes, Paco Rabanne is best known for being an enigmatic character, with many wacky and controversial statements on television. For example, he declared having seen God three times and having been visited by aliens. He also claims to have had several previous lives, including one in which he murdered Tutankhamen or that of a prostitute during the reign of Louis XV, and would in fact be 75,000 years old.
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