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Fashion designer Paco Rabanne has died at the age of 88

The one-time enfant terrible of French fashion was best known for his fragrances

By Joe Goggins

Paco Rabanne
Rabanne outraged the Parisian fashion world in the 1960s. (Photo: Paco Rabanne/Twitter)

The Spanish-born fashion designer Paco Rabanne, perhaps best known for his fragrances, has died at the age of 88.

His passing was confirmed today (February 3) by Puig, the parent company of his brands. He died at his home in France, in Portsall, Brittany. He founded his eponymous brand in 1966; today best known for their perfumes, they initially made waves with Rabanne’s futuristic clothing designs, which helped him to upend the status quo of Paris’ fashion scene.

He would often make use of unconventional materials in his early work, like metal, paper and plastic. His maverick deployment of such unusual components in his work was reflected in his debut collection, ‘12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’, which outraged many amongst the Parisian fashion press and led to Rabanne being labelled an “enfant terrible”, alongside such free-spirited contemporaries as Pierre Cardin and Andre Courreges.

“I have always had the impression of being a time accelerator,” he said of his designs in the exhibition notes for a retrospective of his work at the Antwerp 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.”

He first entered into business with Puig in 1968, and the company helped to usher him into the fragrance industry. His debut scent, Calandre, remains available today, with Lady Million – conspicuous by its gold bottle – also remains hugely popular. In a statement, Puig said that Rabanne had “marked generations with his radical vision of fashion and his legacy will live on”. 

Rabanne retired from the fashion world in 1999, and had remained a largely reclusive figure since. He became as well known for his eccentricity as his designs over the course of his career, and among some of his more dubious proclamations were that he was as old as 78,000, that he had lived multiple lives, that he had seen God and that he had been visited by aliens. In his 1999 book, Fire from Heaven, he predicted the destruction of Paris by the Russian satellite Mir crashing to earth. It did not come to pass.

No details have been announced as to the cause of his death. ”Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women to clamour for dresses made of plastic and metal,” said Puig’s fashion president, José Manuel Albesa. “That radical, rebellious spirit set him apart. There is only one Rabanne.”