PARIS — Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born designer known for perfumes sold worldwide and his metallic, space-age fashions, has died, the group that owns his fashion house announced on its website Friday.
“The House of Paco Rabanne wishes to honor our visionary designer and founder who passed away today at the age of 88. Among the most seminal fashion figures of the 20th century, his legacy will remain,” the statement from beauty and fashion company Puig said.
Le Telegramme newspaper quoted the mayor of Vannes, David Robo, as saying that Rabanne died at his home in the Brittany region town of Portsall.
Rabanne’s fashion house shows its collections in Paris and is scheduled to unveil the brand’s latest ready-to-wear designs during the upcoming Feb. 27-March 3 fashion week.
He was known as a rebel designer in a career that blossomed with his collaboration with the family-owned Puig, a Spanish company that now also owns other design houses, including Nina Ricci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Caroline Herrera and Dries Van Noten. The company also owns the fragrance brands Byredo and Penhaligon’s.
“Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic. Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women (to) clamor for dresses made of plastic and metal? Who but Paco Rabanne could imagine a fragrance called Calandre — the word means ‘automobile grill,’ you know — and turn it into an icon of modern femininity?” the group’s statement said.
Calandre perfume was launched in 1969, the first product by Puig in Spain, France and the United States, according to the company.
Born Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo in 1934, the future designer fled the Spanish Basque country at age 5 during the Spanish Civil War and took the name of Paco Rabanne.
He studied architecture at Paris’ Beaux Arts Academie before moving to couture, following in in the steps of his mother, who was a couturier in Spain. He said she was jailed at one point for being dressed in a “scandalous” fashion.
He sold accessories to well-known designers before launching his own collection.
He titled the first collection presented under his own name “12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials.” His innovative outfits were made of various kinds of metal, including his famous use of mail, the chain-like material associated with Medieval knights.
Coco Chanel reportedly called Rabanne “the metallurgist of fashion.”
“My colleagues tell me I am not a couturier but an artisan, and it’s true that I’m an artisan. ... I work with my hands,” he said in interview in the 1970s.
In an interview given when he was 43 years old and now held in France’s National Audiovisual Institute, Rabanne explained his radical fashion philosophy,
“I think fashion is prophetic. Fashion announces the future,” he said, adding that women were harbingers of what lies on the horizon.
“When hair balloons, regimes fall,” Rabanne said. “When hair is smooth, all is well.”