The Unconventional Life Of Paco Rabanne

Posted by Samantha Ferrec on

Paula Anguera for Afterlife Mode by Alex Sain and Sandra Sole


Visionary couturier, avant-garde creator or fashion metallurgist, Paco Rabanne is an unconventional personality with disruptive ideas that can be described in many ways. He is known as a multidimensional being who constantly reinvented himself and for his use of non-traditional material and linking techniques. He implemented radical changes in the fashion industry with his use of metal or by redefining the codes of the perfume world. He is also known for his compelling life story and spiritual path.

Born Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo on the 18th February 1934 in Pasaia located in the Spanish Basque Country. His mother was a head seamstress at Balenciaga and was a revolutionary spirit who even went to jail for scandalous dressing. At the age of five, he and his mother had to escape the Spanish Civil War because of the execution of his father by Franco. They fled to France and seeked refuge in the French region of Brittany. At a young age, he recalls having visions of the future and being able to reconnect with his past lives. He moved to Paris and studied architecture at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At the same time, he designed jewellery and buttons and would sell accessories to renowned houses. His first jewellery line was made with a new material named Rhodoïd, a light and transparent plastic material made from acetate and cellulose. In 1965, he started to use the name Paco Rabanne, which is said to have a secret meaning in Egyptian.
In 1966, he presented his first couture collection named “12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials” at the George V hotel. Dresses of punched plastic pieces held together with chains walked down the runway to up-beat music and were worn by both white and black models. This debute show, considered as a manifesto, led to a wide international media coverage because it triggered shock, critique and mockery but also curiosity and fascination. 
"It's important to remain impertinent, radical. Creation must shock."

Paco Rabanne 

The pieces he made could be with buttons or plated gold or even fireproof textile with a space age style. Although profoundly conservative, the world of fashion progressively recognised his talent and in 1971, he was admitted as a member at the prestigious institution Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.
From 1993 to 1996, Paco Rabanne published a series of books related to his mystical path and spiritual quest. In 1999, he left his own fashion house to dedicate himself to culture, writing and most of all, esoterism. In his texts and through media appearances, he explains his past lives and apocalyptical predictions for the year 2000. Among others, he claims to have traveled to Earth 78,000 years ago from a planet named Altair in order to organise civilisation on this planet, and lived as a priest in the Egyptian civilisation and assassinated the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
He designed multiple metallic dresses for french singer and songwriter Françoise Hardy, one of them was assembled from gold plates and diamonds.

He also designed a dress for Jane Fonda in the movie Barbarella by Roger Vadim and many other muses such as Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Jeanne Moreau, and Audrey Hepburn.


The 1969 bag: a signature of Paco Rabanne

Initially specialising in accessories, Paco Rabanne applied his cutting-edge vision to bags. The chainmail is one of his signatures since the 1960s. Although soft, flexible and sophisticated, this protective material was a reference to the Middle-Ages, a violent and troubled period of time that echoed the era he was living in.

The iconic bag named 1969 is elaborated with metal pieces assembled by hand and a toilet chain. The experimental materials utilised are paired with ingenious and precise craftsmanship. In 2011, the 1969 was relaunched with lighter aluminium and a variety of finishes such as silver, gold and purple.

 Paco Rabanne 1969 iconic bags

Discover Afterlife Mode's selection of statement pieces that inevitably evoke the archival futuristic looks while being a unique take.