Paco Rabanne's Fashion Legacy: From Unwearable Dresses to NFTs
Today, legendary Spanish designer Franciso 'Paco' Rabaneda Cuervo of Paco Rabanne died at his home, leaving a trailblazing fashion legacy behind him. From his start as a jewellery designer for Balenciaga, Givenchy and Dior - an endeavour he took up to fund his architecture studies at the Beaux Arts in Paris - to shocking the world by unveiling dresses made of plastic, chainmail, aluminium and wood - also known as The Unwearables- in 1965, Rabanne was a leading figure in the new guard of Space Age creators who broke daring conventions for dressmaking.
Designing the costumes for films like Barbarella, plus ballet, Rabanne explored other pursuits including perfume and drawing before handing over the reigns of his own brand to artistic director Patrick Robinson in 2005. The futuristic aesthetic of the label continued, as captured in a fashion film by Nick Knight. Today, Julien Dossena is at the helm. Presenting collections which are albeit more wearable, and dare we say commercial, a dedication to radical craftsmanship remains, with chainmail dominating the last S/S 23 collection, and a collection of NFTs released last year.
An ode to the infamous 12 Unwearable Dresses, these iconic dresses were represented as NFTs for the 21st century's very own Space Age, the Metaverse. Unveiled inside the first Metaverse Fashion Week on the platform Decentraland, the non-fungible tokens invited a new audience to experience the archive pieces virtually. Two dresses, a S/S 69 cape originally made from plexiglass diamonds and a look from A/W 90-91, were available as two NFTs only due to the digital craftsmanship it took to recreate them, developing the virtual renders with the same level of detail as the real life garments. In addition to being available online, the dresses were shoppable in-store at London department store Selfridges as part of an immersive exhibition at the time exploring the brand's aesthetic ties to OpArt creator Victor Vasarely.
Today, the influence of Rabanne punctures both digital and physical realms. To give just one example, the Rhodoid Disc dress can be seen on high fashion runways and amongst fast fashion offerings, with 'do it yourself' versions even available on eBay. Although the designer's rebellious and daring vision may have been copied, repeated and filtered down, his rule-breaking legacy remains one fashion designers today can only aspire to.