Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born pace-setting designer known for perfumes sold worldwide and his metallic, space-age fashions, has died, the group that owns his fashion house announced on its website Friday.

“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,” the statement from Puig said.

Le Telegramme newspaper in Brittany quoted the mayor of Vannes, David Robo, as saying that Rabanne died at his home in Portsall, in the Finistere region.

A bearded man holds the hand of an elaborately dressed female model.
Rabanne stands with one of his models in an undated photo from a Russian fashion show in Moscow. (Getty Images)

Rabanne’s fashion house shows its collections in Paris, and is scheduled to unveil the brand’s latest ready-to-wear designs during fashion week from Feb. 27 to March 3.

He was known as a rebel designer in a career that blossomed with his collaboration with Antonio and Mariano Puig, a Spanish company that now also owns other design houses, including Nina Ricci and Jean Paul Gaultier.

“Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic. Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women [to] clamour for dresses made of plastic and metal? Who but Paco Rabanne could imagine a fragrance called Calandre — the word means ‘automobile grill,’ you know — and turn it into an icon of modern femininity?” said the statement.

Several models are shown on a fashion runway in a wide lens shot.
Models present creations for Rabanne on March 12, 2001 in Paris as part of that year’s autumn and winter ready-to-wear collections. (Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Metallurgist of fashion’

The Calandre perfume was launched in 1969, the first product by Puig in Spain, France and the United States, according to the group.

Born Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo in 1934, he fled the Spanish Basque country at the age of five during the Spanish Civil War, and took the name of Paco Rabanne.

A man in a mustache dressed in dark clothing is shown with two ornately dressed mannequins.
Rabanne is shown with mannequins displaying his 1973 collection of paper dresses, on Jan. 22, 1973. (Bernard Ferret/The Associated Press)

He studied architecture at Paris’ Beaux Arts Academie before moving to couture — in the steps of his mother, who was a couturier in Spain — where, he once said, she was jailed at one point for being dressed in a “scandalous” fashion.

He started his career sketching high end handbags and shoes, before branching into fashion, designing garments and jewelry with unconventional materials such as metal and plastic. His first fashion house opened in the mid-1960s.

In the first collection under his name, he introduced “12 unwearable dressed in contemporary materials.” His innovative outfits were made of various kinds of metal, including his famous use of mail, best associated with Medieval knights.

Coco Chanel reportedly called Rabanne “the metallurgist of fashion.”

“My colleagues tell me I am not a couturier, but an artisan and it’s true that I’m an artisan. … I work with my hands,” he said in interview in the 1970s.

In an interview given when he was 43 years old and now held in France’s National Audiovisual Institute, Rabanne explained his radical fashion philosophy.

“I think fashion is prophetic. Fashion announces the future,” he said, adding that women were harbingers of what lies on the horizon.

“When hair balloons, regimes fall,” Rabanne said. “When hair is smooth, all is well.”


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