Paco Rabanne: Fashion designer dies aged 88

Luxury brand pays tribute to 'visionary founder' after announcing death online

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Fashion designer Paco Rabanne has died at the age of 88.

The Spanish designer, whose real name was Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo, founded the renowned brand named after him.

Alongside French designers Pierre Cardin and Andre Courreges, he helped upset the status quo of Paris fashion of the time, earning him the moniker of “enfant terrible”.

A statement shared on the official Instagram account of Paco Rabanne, said: “The House of Paco Rabanne wishes to honour 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 a constant source of inspiration.

“We are grateful to Monsieur Rabanne for establishing our avant-garde heritage and defining a future of limitless possibilities.”

Marc Puig, chairman and chief executive officer of Puig, the parent company of Rabanne's brands offered his condolences.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Paco Rabanne,” said Puig. “A major personality in fashion, his was a daring, revolutionary and provocative vision, conveyed through a unique aesthetic.

"He will remain an important source of inspiration for the Puig fashion and fragrance teams, who continuously work together to express Paco Rabanne’s radically modern codes. I extend my sincere condolences to his family and to those who have known him.”

From Lady Gaga to Brigitte Bardot

Nicknamed "Wacko Paco" in the 1960s for his often unwearable designs, Rabanne became best-known in later years for his globally popular line of fragrances as well as his eccentric beliefs.

Dismissed as "the metal worker" by Coco Chanel, his influence nonetheless carried through many generations and he famously dressed Lady Gaga in outfits made entirely of paper for her 2011 appearance at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

He also designed Jane Fonda's costume for 1968 sci-fi film Barbarella, and dresses for French stars Brigitte Bardot and Francoise Hardy.

Rabanne started out as a co-creator of the 1960s space age movement in fashion alongside designers such as Pierre Cardin, who incorporated the era's giddy excitement around the future and technological advancements into their clothes.

His 1966 show brought immediate fame and notoriety when he stunned the audience with "12 Unwearable Dresses", his models dancing barefoot down the runway in outfits made of sharp metal and other unlikely materials.

"I have always had the impression of being a time accelerator," he wrote in typically enigmatic style for a retrospective at Antwerp's fashion museum MoMu in 2016.

"Of going as far as is reasonable for one's time and not indulge in the morbid pleasure of the known things, which I view as decay."

Fleeing Franco

Francisco Rabaneda-Cuervo was born in 1934 in Spain's Basque region, near the city of San Sebastian, where his mother was a seamstress for the designer Cristobal Balenciaga and his father was an army general.

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

In 1939 his family fled to France and Rabanne went on to study at the Beaux-Arts university in Paris, graduating with a diploma in architecture.

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

After the media furore around his own line, Rabanne signed a deal in 1968 that brought him under the ownership of Barcelona's Puig family, heavyweights in the fashion and fragrance industry.

It marked his entry into perfumes that would see his name become synonymous with cologne, ultimately even eclipsing his fame as a designer.

Additional reporting from the Press Association and AFP

Updated: February 06, 2023, 5:29 AM