Tuesday, May 30

Paco Rabanne’s 1997 Runway Is Summer’s Fashion Blueprint


Getty Images/ Daniel Simon

It’s been less than six months since the passing of visionary designer Paco Rabanne, but his influence continues to permeate the fabric of today’s trends. Since establishing his own fashion house in the 1960s, Rabanne has been at the forefront of futurism, redefining the depths of haute couture with his innovative use of materials like metal and plastic. He was also a co-creator of the 1960s Space Age movement along with designers Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges (whose namesake brand is also experiencing a 21st-century revival). Rabanne notoriously never liked to look to the past. He even berated the usage of Mozart during one of his runway shows in 1997. “Mozart is dead,” he proclaimed. “He is dead and buried. Two-three hundred years have passed already. It’s time to represent today’s mood with today’s music.”

But in a sense of irony, we’re still trying to catch up to Rabanne’s greatness decades later. His archives are rich with iconic moments (including Jane Fonda’s futuristic looks in Barbarella), but one year that sticks out of Rabanne’s storied career is 1997. By then, the Spanish designer was already a legendary figure, and a household name among those even vaguely interested in pop culture, yet Rabanne continually attempted to push the boundaries via his work. The belly-baring cutouts, ultra low-rise pants, and sultry chainlink bras of Rabanne’s S/S 97 collection look like they jumped directly out of a 2023 lookbook. Thanks to Youtube, this runway history is also well-preserved in motion, where Rabanne’s most talked about collections are graciously uploaded onto the platform. Speaking of his fall-winter collection that year, Rabanne said, “What I’m trying to do is make dresses for the year 2000. We’re only three years from 2000, but I refuse to fo clothes from the 90s, which I’ve seen from certain collections this week.”

By now, it’s basically a law that everything in fashion has a way of boomeranging back around, but these collections show that sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to drum up excitement. And it’s true. I find myself constantly looking through this Rabanne collection as it feels so salient today with the influx of flesh-exposing designs that incorporate elements of seduction. It’s clear his work still defines and influences what’s happening right now in fashion—including the biggest trends of this summer.

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