Category: fashion

February 18, 1934: Fashion icon Paco Rabanne born

On February 18, 1934, Francisco “Paco” Rabaneda Cuervo was born in Pasaia, Gipuzkoa. He would go on to become Paco Rabanne, the enfant terrible of the French fashion world in the 1960s and one of the most illustrious names in the history of fashion design.

Not long after his birth, the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 and that part of Gipukoa where he was from, close to France, witnessed an early invasion by rebel troops in an attempt to cut off access to the border. Indeed, his father, a colonel in the Spanish army who remained loyal to the democratically elected government of the Second Republic, was executed by the insurgent forces. The family subsequently fled to France, first to Morlaix (Montroulez in Breton) in Brittany and then to Les Sables-d’Olonne, a coastal town in the western Department of Vendée.

Iconic metal and plastic dress designed by Paco Rabanne (1967). Worn by Baroness Helen Bachofen von Echt at New York party at which she danced with Frank Sinatra. Image by Nadia Priestly, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rabanne would have been aware of the fashion industry from an early age as his mother had been chief seamstress at the Balenciaga salon, owned by the other great Basque fashion icon, Cristóbal Balenciaga (see an earlier post here). Although he originally studied architecture at the French National Fine Arts School in Paris in the 1950s, by the end of his studies he was already designing jewelry for Givenchy, Dior, and of course Balenciaga. He founded his own fashion house in 1966 and gained a reputation for his radical and striking designs, often incorporating a diversity of colors and unconventional materials such as metal, paper, and plastic, and with more than a hint of a futurist or post-industrial elements. Indeed, he was responsible for the costume design in the iconic science fiction movie Barbarella (1968), starring Jane Fonda.  In the late 1960s he began a collaboration with Barcelona-based fragrance company Puig, which resulted in the launch of the Rabanne perfume line, one of the best-known brands in the world. More recently, from the 1990s on, he began exhibiting his drawings and paintings, but he remains one of the great fashion icons of the world today.

Check out the official Paco Rabanne website here.

 

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Nina Garbiras

Born in 1964 in New York City of Basque descent, actress, singer, and businesswoman Nina Garbiras has enjoyed an eclectic career.

Nina_Garbiras

Nina Garbiras

Garbiras grew up in both New York and northern California, majoring in psychology at the University of Santa Clara. She later studied dramatic art at the L’Ecole de Claude Mathieu in Paris, France, where she also appeared in several small theater productions. She then moved to London, acting in fringe theater roles, before returning to the US.

She is perhaps best known for her TV work, especially in the role of Alexandra Brill in Fox Television’s series The Street (2000), Beth Greenway in the Showtime series Leap Years (2001), and Andrea Little in NBC/DreamWorks’ Boomtown (2002). But she has also appeared in a variety of movies such as the short French-language Swiss film Fin de Siècle (1998), You Can Count on Me, with Matthew Broderick (2000),  Bruiser (2000), and The Nanny Diaries, with Scarlett Johansson and Alicia Keys (2007).

In recent years, Garbiras has become a successful businesswoman. She runs FIG, a boutique and design firm described by Christopher Bollen of V Magazine as “The perfect mix of Evelyn Waugh gone rock and roll and staying up late.” According to the company website, “FIG began on New York’s Lower East side as a richly curated gallery with a blend of vintage European pieces that spanned several centuries (18th century to 1960’s). Inside the studio was an eclectic mix of French gilt mirrors, English leather sofas, early-Italian oil paintings, Turkish rugs, Chinese art deco and refined American Industrial design. In addition to its historic pieces, FIG also carried contemporary photography along with lush textiles and one-of-a-kind antique jewelry. The modern-day atelier was an ever-shifting emporium that reflected a contemporary aesthetic with a soulful collection.”

 

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Norma Kamali

American Fashion’s Greta Garbo, Norma Kamali: Born Norma Arraez in New York City in 1945, in her own words, quoted in Kim Hastreiter’s article and interview here, “my mother was Lebanese and my father was Basque — fiery, crazy people — so I’m used to being around people who are intense and big.” But as Hastreiter also points out, Kamali is “a self-admitted hider,” someone who “has grown her brand without integrating the showbiz-PR-designer-as-celebrity aspect that many designers build into their lines these days in order to succeed.”

Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali

She graduated from Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 1964 and in 1968, together with her then husband, Mohammed (Eddie) Houssain Kamali, opened a basement boutique on Manhattan’s East side. Her designs were based mostly on the vintage look of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and some of her early customers included Diana Ross, Bianca Jagger, and Cher. Nowadays, she counts Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga among her clients.

Best known for her “sleeping bag” coat, garments made from silk parachutes, and versatile multi-use pieces, she also designed the iconic red one-piece bathing suit worn by Farrah Fawcett in a 1976 publicity shot for the TV show Charlie’s Angels (the poster of which sold over 12 million copies worldwide), an item which was ultimately donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2011. Kamali was also the first designer to create an online store on eBay, has won multiple awards, and received a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York City. Some of her work is, moreover, included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Check out the designs at her website here. And for short biography click here.