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.