Why you should know who he is:
Paco Rabanne was the first designer to successfully(commercially speaking) use unconventional materials to make clothing. His use of metal and plastic paillettes was revolutionary when he first introduced his dresses to the public in the mid-sixties.
More importantly he was the first designer to use black models in his runway shows. This outrageous behavior shocked the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne(the organization responsible for relegating 'Haute Couture ' status on french fashion houses), almost causing his dismissal.
Rabanne made his initial debut in the fashion world selling jewellery and buttons to designers like Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy. He soon began combining his disc shaped earrings together to create his signature dresses. Shown below is a wedding dress he created in 1968.
He quickly found himself in demand as a costume designer for movies and the theatre. Most memorable are his designs for Jane Fonda in Barbarella.
What has he done since?
The house continued on and Rabanne eventually softened up and incorporated more wearable fabrics. His perfumes sold very well, and many speculate that it was fragrance sales that kept the brand afloat. In 1999 he discontinued the Haute Couture line believing it was 'not in harmony with the new Millenium'. That same year he predicted that the Russian space station Mir would crash in to Paris, the local media quickly dubbed this declaration 'Pacolypse'.
Why I love him so:
Rabanne pushed boundaries and limits throughout his entire career. He stayed true to his vision and aesthetic though it meant lean years for the label. His creations throughout the 60's were revolutionary from a design standpoint, he created paper dresses which were packaged in envelopes,
and sold DIY kits for women to create their own designs with the materials provided.
"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." - Paco Rabanne
I'm a fan. Because of his paillette dresses he was sometimes accused of being a one-hit-wonder, but I think his contribution to fashion as a whole is undeniable. The house continues on under a new designer, and they continue to make use of new and unconventional fabrics. In my mind pushing boundaries is what the art of fashion should be about.