From the spaceship of fashion to the king of perfumes

Nicknamed ‘Wacko Paco’ in the 1960s for his often insufferable designs, Spain’s Paco Rabanne has become better known in recent years for his globally popular fragrance line as well as his eccentric beliefs.

Dismissed as “the metal worker” by Coco Chanel, his influence has nevertheless carried over several generations and he famously dressed global superstar Lady Gaga in clothes made entirely of paper for her performance at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards.

He also designed Jane Fonda’s iconic costume for the 1968 sci-fi film Barbarella and dresses for French idols Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy.

Rabanne began as a co-creator of the space age fashion movement of the 1960s, alongside designers such as Pierre Cardin, who incorporated the era’s frenetic excitement around the future and technological advances into their clothing.

The 1966 show brought instant fame and notoriety when it stunned audiences with “12 Unwearable Dresses,” its models dancing barefoot down the runway in clothes made of sharp metal and other unlikely materials.

“I’ve always had the impression that I’m a time-accelerator,” he wrote in typically enigmatic style for a retrospective at Antwerp’s MoMu fashion museum in 2016.

“To go as far as is reasonable for one’s time and not indulge in the morbid pleasure of familiar things, which I regard as decay.”

Leaving Franco

Francisco Rabaneda-Cuervo was born in 1934 in the Basque region of Spain, near the city of San Sebastián, where his mother was a dressmaker for designer Cristobal Balenciaga and his father was a general.

Rabanne’s life was uprooted by the Spanish Civil War, when dictator Francisco Franco’s army turned on his father, commander of the Guernica garrison, and killed him in 1936.

In 1939 his family fled to France and Rabanne continued his studies at the Beaux-Arts University in Paris, graduating with a degree in architecture.

He began his fashion career creating accessories — jewelry, ties, buttons — that caught the attention of Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Cardin.

After the media frenzy surrounding his own line, Rabanne signed a deal in 1968 that brought him under the ownership of the Barcelona-based Puig family, heavyweights in the fashion and perfume industry.

It marked his entry into perfumery which would see his name become synonymous with cologne, eventually eclipsing his reputation as a designer.

“Mystic, crazy”

Ever the provocateur, Rabanne had a penchant for mysticism and esotericism.

He claimed to have had many lives, to be about 78,000 years old, to have made love to Earth, to have seen God, and to have been visited by aliens.

In 1999 he predicted in his book “Fire From Heaven” that Paris would be destroyed later that year when the Russian space station Mir crashed into Earth — a claim derived from a reading of the 16th-century French seer Nostradamus.

“To say that Paco Rabanne marches to his own drummer is an understatement,” wrote the New York Times in 2002. “He has been called a futurist, a tailor, a mystic, a madman, a Dadaist, a sculptor, an architect, an astrologer, a perfumer, an artist and a prophet. . (AFP)

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