Paco Rabanne's Fashion Legacy: From Unwearable Dresses to NFTs

by SHOWstudio on 3 February 2023

Following the designer's death aged 88, we look back on his fashion legacy.

Following the designer's death aged 88, we look back on his fashion legacy.

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.

SHOWstudio fashion illustrator Beth Fraser’s depiction of Paco Rabanne A/W 19 by Julien Dossenna

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 Two dresses, a S/S 69 cape originally made from plexiglass diamonds and a look from A/W 90-91, were available as two NFTs only due to the digital craftsmanship it took to recreate them, developing the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.

12 Unwearable Dresses NFT, 2022

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.

Nick Knight captures futuristic silhouettes of Paco Rabanne’s S/S 12 collection in this fashion film starring Daphne Guinness.



Visions Couture

21 December 2011
Daphne Guinness is the ideal muse for a series of installations by Nick Knight for Le Printemps Paris windows.
Image Gallery

Lookbook: Metaverse Fashion Week Paco Rabanne

26 March 2022
Creative Director: Julien Dossena

Paco Rabanne Gives New Life To Iconic Archive Pieces As 12 NFTs

12 April 2022
Continuing to define their vision through an excellent dedication to radical craft, Paco Rabanne are at it again, only this time their retro-futurist garments from 1966 don't take up space as physical forms, but rather, digital ones.
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