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Paco Rabanne: Legendary Fashion designer dies aged 88

He founded his own eponymous fashion house in 1966

paco rabanne working on a chainmail design
Natalie Salmon
Fashion Digital Editor
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Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born designer who was renowned for his iconic metallic dresses, has passed away at the age of 88 in Portsall, Brittany.

Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo as he was originally named, (Paco Rabanne was a pseudonym),  will go down as one of the most revered fashion designers in history. 

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Paco Rabanne

Paco Robanne at his couture SS 96 show in Paris

His origins are equally as fateful and as intriguing as his designs, born on the 18 February 1934 in the Basque town of Pasajes, Gipuzkoa. His father was a Republican Colonel and was executed by Francoist troops during the Spanish Civil War. 

His love of design came from his mother, who was the chief seamstress at Cristóbal Balenciaga's first couture house in Donostia, Basque Country, and subsequently Balenciaga moved Rabanne's entire family when he opened Balenciaga in Paris in 1937.

Francoise Hardy Wearing Paco Rabanne

French singer Francoise Hardy wears Paco Rabanne in 1968

How did Paco Rabanne become a designer?

In the mid-1950s Paris, while he was studying architecture at l'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Rabanne earned money on the side by making fashion sketches for the likes of Dior and Givenchy, as well as shoe sketches for Charles Jourdan. Despite his early foray into the fashion industry, he stuck to his original plan getting a job at the company of esteemed French architect Auguste Perret. After 10 years at the company, he reinvented himself as a jewellery designer creating pieces for Givenchy, Dior, and Balenciaga. He then went on to found his own eponymous fashion house in 1966. 

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Paco Rabanne With His Designs

Paco Rabanne in his studio circa 1968

What is Paco Rabbane famous for?

Paco Rabanne was a pioneer in the use of alternative textiles not traditionally seen in dress making. He used unconventional materials such as metal, paper, and plastic for his dresses and  avant garde designs. Designs. In 1966, he presented his first collection,  "Manifesto: 12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials". This style of ‘metal couture’ and elaborate ‘chain mail’ dresses is still widely used today. He once said, “I defy anyone to design a hat, coat or dress that hasn't been done before...The only new frontier left in fashion is the finding of new materials”

Rabanne is also known for creating the green costume worn by Jane Fonda in the 1968 cult-classic science-fiction film Barbarella. 

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