French fashion designer
Born: Paris, France, 10 July 1961. Education: Studied art history at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1978-80, and Studio Bercot, 1979-80. Career: Assistant to Thierry Mugler, 1981; assistant to Azzedine Alaïa, 1982; consultant and freelance designer for Woolmark, Claude Montana menswear, 1987-88; launched own line, P.A.P. for women, 1987; label produced under Paco Rabanne, 1991; specializes in ready-to-wear, accessories, fibers and yarns, and fabrics; Président du Comité Français de la Couleur, 1994. Exhibitions: Fashion and Surrealism,Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1984; La Fée Electricité, Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1985; Les Créateurs, Villa Noaille, Hyéres, France, 1992; Mode et Liberty, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 1993; CONTREX, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 1994; Mode et Gitane, Carousel du Louvre, Paris, 1994; Voyage dans la Matiére, Grand Palais, Paris, 1994. Collections: Union Francaise des Arts du Costume, Paris; Musée de la Mode á Marseille, France. Awards: Bourse pour la Création, Ministére de la Culture, 1990; 1er prix de la Création Woolmark, 1990. Address: 177 rue du Temple, 75003 Paris, France.
Voight, Rebecca, "Vanity Fairs," in Paris Passion (Paris), October 1990.
Hepple, Keith, "The Young and the Fun," in DR: The Fashion Business (London), 1 December 1990.
"Guillemin to design RTW for Paco Rabanne," in WWD, 17 October 1991.
Hood, Frederique, "Fantastic Meteor," in Elle (New York), March 1992.
Valmont, Martine, "Les fils de l'été 1995," in Journal du Textile, 29 November 1993.
Molin Corvo, Roberta, "Vive la recherche!" in Trends: Collezioni (Modena, Italy), Spring/Summer 1995.
" Yes Minister Meets Ab Fab: The F.O. Has Designs on EU," in M2 Communications, 24 February 1998.
"China Hosts International Young Designers Contest," in the Xinhua News Agency, 27 March 1999.
"The Best Deal for Young Fashion," available online at Guillemin, www.scalaire.com/fashion, 9 June 2001.
"Fashion Cultures Exhibition," online at Intersélection, www.interselection.com, 9 June 2001.*
I chose the profession of fashion designer because it was the catalyst for my various creative aspirations—commercial, sociological, and technical. I consider myself an experimentalist and it is this reason my path is very varied. The way my career is developing leads me increasingly towards a more forward way of looking at clothes, in unusual fibers, threads, and fabrics, but also at the process of distribution and consumption. I think we are at a turning point in our Western society and that in future years other codes of fashion are going to appear. It is with this in mind that I see my collections, which were elitist at the beginning of my career, becoming increasingly creatively democratic.
Olivier Guillemin designs wearable art for the fashion follower who is looking ahead to the next century. One of a group of hot young Parisian stars, including Sophie Sitbon and Corinne Cobson, Guillemin frequently uses unusual and novel fabrics to surprising effect. His modern, futuristic designs often appear to signal a world where high technology will triumph over nature and the human body. Not unlike the 1960s science fiction looks of Paco Rabanne, with whom Guillemin is associated, these designs address today's postindustrial, satellite-linked global society head-on.
Guillemin demonstrated his stubborn individuality from the beginning by premiering his collections in odd and diverse places, from a gloomy medieval church to an old-fashioned hotel ballroom, or the French Institute of Fashion. In accord with the spirit of his times, he has been allied with other fashion deconstructivists; his designs have been called "absurd and enchanting." He has created garments which seem to have been literally torn apart and then patched back together, or merely draped over the figure, or left ragged and unfinished.
One collection included a frock made from pieces of a dress pattern secured haphazardly with strips of black tape, exposing bits of the model's skin. Others appeared to be exploding, as in his dress of woven paper fabric covered with forbidding spiky cones radiating from the bodice. A backless, gathered, knee-length shift looked like a paint-spattered drop cloth picked up off an atelier floor and draped around an artist's model. He created a jumpsuit with one leg missing; other garments have been shorn into bandage-like strips. As these examples show, Guillemin is not timid about exploiting the limits of what constitutes "clothing" within the fashion arena.
Unusual shapes, materials, and accessories are a Guillemin trademark, such as his black plastic jewelry designs coiling in arabesques around the model's face and body. One collection was comprised mainly of metallic fabrics, including metallic indigo toile suits and long, metallic toile coats. He has toyed with neon-colored fake fur, transparent plastics, and stretch Lycra. His fascination with industrial materials has resulted in long, rubberized apron dresses and black plastic luggage closures used as jacket fasteners. His clothes often seem to refer to a nonspecific, postapocalyptic era, where body covering will be cobbled together from the remains of urban destruction. But his fantastic designs have also been prescient; his use of neon colored fabrics easily predated the trend for those materials by several seasons.
When Guillemin was named ready-to-wear designer for Paco Rabanne in 1991, he expressed the desire to continue working on his own line and to keep the two collections separate. His own lines continued to display the inventiveness, unusual fabrics, and devotion to experimental fiber technologies for which he was already known. And, lest the impression be given that he is only a provocateur, he has also made quite wearable, (though still playful) clothing. Guillemin has demonstrated that both before and during his association with Paco Rabanne, he has not been entirely unwilling to create realistic styles.
Like many of his contemporaries, Guillemin revels in the exposure of the human form. The body is to be peeked at through a red plastic raincoat, peered at through slashed fabric, or simply left starkly nude. His penchant for peekaboo styles was protrayed in a most surrealistic selection of garments resembling hedges in a topiary garden. Models paraded in clingy dresses and bodysuits covered with tightly-cut net and tulle patches, giving the impression of a group of cartoonish, mobile shrubbery. In the same show, ruffs of stiff tulle were positioned around the figure like fur, with bare portions of the midriff showing through, creating a look somewhat akin to an oversized poodle. (The finale to this event was a bare-breasted stilt-walker.)
For Paco Rabanne, Guillemin has drawn upon the famous looks of the 1960s with their references to space travel and their use of metallic stretch fabrics. He has even revived Rabanne's famed silvery plastic and metal disk garments. But Guillemin is not simply paying homage to the past; he brought his unique vision to Rabanne with dramatic, well-cut modern garments utilizing the latest advances in microfiber technology. Whether creating his own phantasmagorical styles or updating the venerable but forward-looking designs of Paco Rabanne, Guillemin has remained on the cutting edge.
In February 1998, Guillemin was one of four designers to join 23 of Europe's up-and-coming designers in a 45-minute catwalk showing for London Fashion Week, held at the Natural History Museum to support the UK's presidency of the European Union. The spring/summer collection touted the distinct flair of native design displayed by what Doug Henderson, Minister of Europe, called the "brightest young fashion stars." It was a busy year for Guillemin—in fall of the same year, 1998, he was a feature designer at the Prêt á Porter Paris fair; the next spring, he took part in China's International Young Designers Contest.
In mid-May 2000, Guillemin spoke for the environment by addressing the Fashion Cultures Exhibition in Clichy, France, on "Well-Being Through Today's and Tomorrow's Colors." He earned respect for his choice of clean, organic cotton uncontaminated by fertilizers or pesticides and updated viscose manufactured by a non-polluting method.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass
Born: Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo in San Sebastian, Spain, 18 February 1934; raised in France. Education: Studied architecture at l'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1952-55. Career: Presented first haute couture collection, "Twelve Unwearable Dresses," Paris, 1966; home furnishing and tableware lines introduced, 1981; launched men's ready-to-ear line, 1983; men's skin care line launched, 1984; debuted women's ready-to-wear line, 1990; opened first shop, Paris, 1990; introduced leather goods, 1991; began condominium development in Miami beach, 1994; launched Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvee, 1998; parent company Puig closes Rabanne fashion, 1999; fragrances include Calandre, late 1960s, Paco Rabanne pour Homme, 1973, Metal, 1979, La Nuit, 1985, Sport, 1985, Tenere, 1988; Ultraviolet, 2000. Exhibitions: Body Covering, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, 1968; Paco Rabanne, Musée de la mode, Marseille, 1995; Une vision plastique: rencontre de la plastique et de la Haute-Couture, Musée du Peigne et de la Plasturgie, Oyonnax, 1998. Folies de dentelles, Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, Alençon, 2000. Awards: Beauty Products Industry award, 1969; Fragrance Foundation Recognition award, 1974; L'Aiguille d'Or award, 1977; Dé d'Or award, 1990; Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1989; Officier de l'Ordre d'Isabelle la Catholique (Spain), 1989. Address: 6, boulevard de Parc, 92523 Neuilly, France. Website: www.paco.com.
Trajectory, Paris, 1991.
Collections Paco Rabanne: 200 modéles de haute couture, 1966-1994, [catalogue], with Herve Chayette and Laurence Calmels, Paris, 1994.
Paco Rabanne: Musée de la mode, 9 juin-17 septembre 1995, [exhibiton catalogue], Marseille, 1995.
La force des Celts: l'heritage druidique, with Philip Carr-Gomm,Paris, 1996.
Paco Rabanne: A Feeling for Research, with Lydia Kamitsis, Paris,1996.
La leçon indienne: les secrets d'un homme-médecine, conversations avec Wallace Black Elk, with Wallace Black Elk, Paris, 1996.
The Dawn of the Golden Age: A Spiritual Design for Living, Barcelona & Shaftsbury, Dorset, 1997.
Paco Rabanne: Une vision plastique—rencontre de la plasturgie et de la Haute-Couture, [exhibition catalogue], Oyonnax, France, 1998.
Journey: From One Life to Another, Shaftsbury, Dorset, 1999.
1999: Fire from the Heavens, Paris, 1999.
Folies et dentelles, [exhibition catalogue], Alençon, France, 2000.
Bender, Marylin, The Beautiful People, New York, 1967.
Clemmer, Jean, Canned Candies: The Exotic Women and Clothes of Paco Rabanne, Paris & London, 1969.
Loebenthal, Joel, Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties, New York,1990.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.
Kamitsis, Lydia, Paco Rabanne, London, 1999.
Sharp, Joy, "Fashion Foibles of 1967," in Costume, No. 2, 1968.
Tretiak, Philippe, "Paco le visionnaire," in Elle (Paris), 24 October 1988.
Dutt, Robin, "Metal Guru," in Clothes Show (London), December/January 1989-90.
Bourdley, Laurence, "Paco Rabanne," in L'Officiel (Paris), February 1990.
Silver, Vernon, "Label Living: You've Worn the Perfrume, Now Live in the Condo," in the New York Times, 20 February 1994.
Louie, Elaine, "Here's a Rainy Day Project (but Watch for Lightning)," in the New York Times, 30 May 1996.
Whitney, Craig R., "An Old Prediction Speeds France's Annual Exodus," in the New York Times, 6 July 1999.
Young, Clara, "Paco Rabanne," [profile] online at Fashion Live, www.fashionlive.com, 5 August 2000.***
It comes as no surprise, on viewing the designs of Paco Rabanne, to hear that he prefers to be described as an engineer rather than a couturier. Son of the chief seamstress at Balenciaga (famed for his intricate techniques of construction), Rabanne, after studying architecture, made his name in the 1960s with a series of bizarre, futuristic garments made out of incongruous materials. When viewed on the catwalk they seemed space-age prototypes rather than high fashion garments.
Believing that the only new frontier left in fashion was the discovery and utilization of new materials rather than the old couture method of changing lines from season to season, Rabanne totally broke with tradition, experimenting with plastic and aluminium, to create some of the most eccentric yet influential garments of the 1960s. It was estimated that by 1966 Rabanne was using 30,000 metres of Rhodoid plastic per month in such designs as bib necklaces made of phosphorescent plastic discs strung together with fine wire and whole dresses of the same material linked by metal chains. When he had exhausted the possibilities of plastic, Rabanne created a contemporary version of chainmail using tiny triangles of aluminium and leather held together with flexible wire rings to construct a series of simple shift mini dresses.
The delight of his designs comes in the use of disparate materials not previously considered appropriate for use in clothing, or the displacing of traditional materials in order to produce strange juxtapositions of color and texture. He was, for instance, one of the first designers to combine knits, leather, and fur, using combinations like a cape made of matte silver leather triangles with black ponyskin or a coat teaming curly white lamb and white leather.
It could be said that in the 1970s and 1980s the name Paco Rabanne became associated with male toiletries rather than for the intriguing experimentation he had been carrying out. Rabanne relies on the sales of his successful line of skinscents—including Calandre, Paco, and Metal —to finance his more technological projects. In 1971 he collaborated with Louis Giffard, an authority on flow-molding techniques, to produce a raincoat molded entirely in one piece of plastic.Even the buttons were part of the same process, molded directly into the garment and fitting into pressed-out pieces on the other side of the coat.
In the 1990s, with a 1960s renaissance in full swing, the inventive caliber of Rabanne has been rediscovered. His latest collections are concentrating on stretch jersey, cotton, and viscose fabrics in metallic hues, still accessorized by enormous pieces of jewelry. The high modernism of his 1960s designs seems touchingly innocent when viewed through the jaded eyes of the 1990s. Science and technology in contemporary culture signify something far removed from the faith and hope in the future Rabanne was expressing with his self-consciously space age materials. His designs give less a sense of the future than imbue us with feelings of nostalgia for the optimism in new technology he embraced so fully in decades past.
By the end of the 20th century, Rabanne had broken ground on condominiums in Miami's South Beach, introduced a prciey champagne, a new fragrance (Ultraviolet ), and published several new Age books, including a bestselling doomsday-ish tome based on his interpretations of several Nostradamas prophecies regarding 1999. On the fashion scene, however, Rabanne designed his last collection in July 1999, preparing to leave his various labels in the hands a cadre of assistants. Yet Rabanne's backer, Spain's Puig Fashion & Beauty, pulled its support, effectively shutting down the label. While Rabanne's clothing may have become less controversial over the years, his often audacious beliefs and outspokenness will probably continue to shock and amuse for years to come.
updated by Owen James
Paco Rabanne (1934–) was born Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo in Pasagès de San Pedro in the Basque region of Spain. His family fled to France in 1939 after his father was captured and executed by Francisco Franco's troops. Rabanne studied architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts in Paris from 1951 to 1963. In 1963 he won an award at the Biennale de Paris for an inhabitable garden sculpture, which was exhibited at the Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris.
Rabanne's drawing skills made it possible for him to enter the world of fashion as early as 1955; indeed, to finance his architecture studies, he regularly supplied drawings of handbags for Roger Model and shoes for Charles Jourdan until 1963. In 1959 Women's Wear Daily published seven sketches of dresses signed "Franck Rabanne." Though this was the first time the designer's name appeared in public, he chose "Franck" because the number of letters in the first and last names totaled a lucky thirteen. (He did not begin using the name Paco professionally until 1965.) These dresses bore the imprint of the style of Balenciaga, whose work was familiar to the young Rabanne through his mother, a former chief seamstress in the master's workshop in San Sebastián in Spain.
Rabanne put his artistic gifts and the skills of his family to good use between 1962 and 1966: together they hand-produced unusual buttons and embroideries for the houses of haute couture. His clients at the time included Nina Ricci, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Maggy Rouff, Philippe Venet, Pierre Cardin, and Hubert de Givenchy.
In 1965, Rabanne's creation of oversized rhodoïd jewelry in various geometric forms and bright colors brought him his first major commercial and media success. It also established one of the principles of his style: the use of rigid divisible materials held together by metallic rings or rivets.
Paco Rabanne's first show took place on 1 February 1966 at the Hotel George V. This collection, which the designer called "Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials," was worn by barefoot models parading to the sounds of Pierre Boulez's Le marteau sans maître, which Rabanne chose to reflect modernity and to shock the audience. It was a veritable fashion manifesto and helped to establish Rabanne's reputation as a revolutionary. On 21 April 1966, the dancers of the celebrated Parisian cabaret, the Crazy Horse Saloon, presented Rabanne's collection of beachwear made of rhodoïd disks or leather. The dancers modeled the unconventional clothes in the form of a strip tease, creating another scandal. Rabanne also set up his workshop in 1966 at 33, rue Bergère, with a black décor accented with industrial scaffolding and bicycle seats for chairs.
Experiments in Design
Following the example of contemporary artists who had given up the traditional media of paint and canvas, Paco Rabanne chose to base his fashion experiments on a systematic challenge to the art of cutting and sewing. His work was characterized from the beginning by a complete rejection of traditional couture techniques in favor of the exploration of unusual materials and methods of assemblage.
Rabanne followed up his experiments in rhodoïd with garments made of metal, making metal something of a distinctive signature. He used it from one collection to the next in all its forms: disks and rectangles normally used to make protective aprons for butchers, coats of mail, hammered plates, aluminum jerseys, or elements of jewelry or decoration used as modified ready-mades. This work led Coco Chanel to call him "the metal worker." Rabanne readily acknowledged that the recycling of ready-mades was very much in the tradition of the dadaists, such as his acknowledged master Marcel Duchamp.
He experimented with other materials, whether previously unknown to fashion or reimagined and redirected from their original purposes. Among Rabanne's most notable creations were: paper dresses, which were presented in his collections in 1967, 1988, and 1992; molded clothing known by the name of the patented Giffo process, in which all the individual parts, including the buttons and pockets, were molded in a single block (1968); designs made from knitted fur (1967); and several made entirely of buttons (1970), wood (1977), coconuts (1993), or laser discs (1988). Far from being incidental, these experiments were developed according to a rigorous artistic and ideological perspective. In the process, they helped to free
the art of clothing design from its strictly utilitarian context, and they inspired many other designers to adopt their current positions.
The innovative and nonconformist character of Rabanne's work was recognized in avant-garde artistic circles. The gallery owner Iris Clert exhibited Paco Rabanne's creations in 1966 among those of other artists she supported, like Lucio Fontana. Salvador Dalí referred to his young compatriot as the second Spanish genius for his Unwearable Dresses collection. Rabanne's clothes also appealed to such 1960s icons as Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy. It was also in this period that the cinema made the most frequent use of his dresses, so singular in appearance and so photogenic.
In the 1960s and 1970s Rabanne was in great demand as a costume designer for theatrical productions and ballets as well as films. His many noteworthy contributions to the cinema include: Two or Three Things I Know About Her, directed by Jean-Luc Godard (1967); The Adventurers (Les aventuriers) also known as "The Last Adventure," directed by Robert Enrico (1967); Two for the Road, directed by Stanley Donen (1967); Casino Royale, directed by John Huston (1967); and Barbarella, directed by Roger Vadim (1968).
In addition to Rabanne's work in costume design, he produced a series of sophisticated perfumes. Calandre, launched in 1969 by the Spanish company Puig (which bought out Paco Rabanne in 1986), has proven to be one of the most successful contemporary fragrances. Subsequent fragrances have sold well also. Rabanne's perfumes, as well as his numerous licenses for other products around the world, have made it possible for the designer to continue his fashion experiments without suffering unduly from the low profit margins of haute couture.
In 1999, Rabanne decided to put an end to haute couture activity, while the ready-to-wear sector that he had developed since 1990 experienced new growth, particularly with the arrival in 2000 of Rosemary Rodriguez as the head of Rabanne's creative studio. Rodriguez has developed several collections in harmony with the very particular stylistic grammar of Paco Rabanne.
On the occasion of Rabanne's thirtieth anniversary as a designer, the first retrospective exhibition of his fashions was presented in 1995 at the Musée de la Mode in Marseille, followed in 1996 by the bilingual publication of the first monograph devoted to his work.
Paco Rabanne has been involved since the late 1980s in several artistic projects beyond the confines of fashion, including the production of Mira Nair's film Salaam, Bombay! The film was awarded the Caméra d'Or at the Festival de Cannes in 1988.
In 1991 Rabanne published his first book, Trajectoire. He has since written several other works of reflection on mystical subjects and practices.
Kamitsis, Lydia. Paco Rabanne: les sens de la recherche. Translated by Sylvia Carter. Paris: M. Lafon, 1996.
——. Paco Rabanne. Paris: Editions Assouline, 1997. Translated by Harriet Mason. London: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1999.
Rabanne, Paco. Trajectoire: d'une vie à l'autre. Paris: M. Lafon, 1991.