DRESSCODE: MASTER OF PLASTICS

“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.”

The 1960s were a revolving door of revolutions and evolutions; as well as actually going to the moon, we figuratively went there too as reflected in the Space Age innovative fashions that dominated the decade. The person manning the spacecraft of couture was the Conquistador Francisco Rabandea Cuervo, better known to the Milky Way crew as Paco Rabanne. 

Born on the 18th of February 1934, in Basque Country, Spain (of course this futuristic fashion designer had to be an Aquarian), he was exposed to the fast-paced fashion world from an early age as his mother was the chief seamstress at Balenciaga’s first couture house in Spain, and eventually his Parisian atelier.

The man who would be Paco actually spent a decade working for the famed architectural engineer Auguste Perret after his studies at the L’Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. His destiny was written in the stars for him to never stay out of the fashion world for long. He earned money on the side making sketches for Dior, Givenchy, and Charles Jourdan, and in 1966, the “virtuoso of industrial couture” opened his own fashion house which at first specialized in jewelry and Paris had the ultimate enfant terrible biting at its fashionable heels. 

His debut collection was the groundbreaking “12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials” which saw him combine unconventional materials such as hammered metal, fiber optics, paper, plastics, and elastic for his metal couture. 

A provocative défilé was held, with loud music and models of color in the casting who not only helped showcase the new future of fashion, but also the future of the way fashion would forever be perceived. Hedy Phillips of People Magazine noted that his space-age designs “turned the fashion world upside down” and despite not considering himself a so-called futurist, future fashion revolutionaries such as Edie Sedgwick, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot et autres would all be donned in his avante-garde materials and simple 60s silhouettes.  

Most famously was his partnership with yé-yé star, Françoise Hardy, for whom he made a gold minidress inlaid with diamonds consisting of 1,000 golden plaques and 300 carats, which, at the time, was considered the most expensive dress ever made.

His chainmail constructions were not fully appreciated initially in the Ville Lumière however, but Hollywood picked up the satellite phone and placed a call to the metallurgist and his designs soon flooded into the cinema and TV screens. Most notably in the plastic dresses worn by Bond babes in ‘Casino Royale,’ fellow European war survivor Audrey Hepburn in ‘Two for the Road’ and the iconic barely there costumes of Jane Fonda in ‘Barbarella.'

From his first lift-off in 1966 throughout the 70s, he was copied by scores of other designers, mass-marketed by manufacturers and DIY’d by teens at home. Paco said of his success: 

“My dresses are successful because they are shocking. It’s impossible for a woman to wear one and not be noticed.” 

Fellow crafty guru, genius, and countryman Salvidor Dalí recognized the works of his contemporary stating, (in Salvidor’s usual humble manner) “There are only two geniuses in Spain: me and Paco Rabanne.”

In 1986 the Paco Rabanne brand entered the orbit of the Puig group. In 1999 wacko Paco retired to his private life, remaining distant from his former fashion house and laser-focusing his attention on the world of the Occult, esotericism, astrology, the New Age, Soviet space stations, and science fiction, a world with which he will forever be linked. 

At the age of 88, on February 3, 2023, surrounded by visions of extraterrestrials and fallen spaceships burning in Paris, Paco Rabanne left this earthly plane for worlds unknown, having changed the course of history in more ways than one. 

Long before his death, he perhaps left his final statement when he told a nameless reporter at Le Télégramme these words, “Not everyone can be a star. You have to be smart. The main thing is to talk about yourself, to differentiate yourself from others. Never copy.”

How easy it is to be your own unique star when dressed in a piece by the Master of Plastics. 

LEFT:
2020 F/W LEATHER & RING LINK MIDI SKIRT

TOP RIGHT:
SEQUIN LEOPARD PANTS

BOTTOM RIGHT:
METAL MESH PAISLEY PRINT DRESS
TOP LEFT:
PAILLETTE DISC MINI DRESS

BOTTOM LEFT:
RACER FRONT CHAINMAIL DRESS

RIGHT:
METAL MESH FLORAL FRINGE DRESS

 

Images via Getty Images, Jacques Cuiniéres, Rabanne.com