There's more to life than aftershave

Paco Rabanne takes time out from saving the world to bring his new collection to London. Robin Dutt meets him

Paco Rabanne, along with friends Cardin and Courreges, was responsible for shaping the design revolution of the Sixties when he shocked Paris and the world with a selection of dresses and outfits employing man-made materials such as paper, plastic and, especially, metal. The whole idea was to subvert convention and elevate the commonplace. The fashion world went wild.

After a brief honeymoon period, the fickle fashion commentators moved on to the next big thing, leaving Rabanne to concentrate his energies into selling his name. He is more phlegmatic than many designers who might have stamped a foot, turned bitter or shot up in disappointment.

The launch of his new Spring/ Summer collection will be the first time so large a Rabanne collection has been made available to the London punter since the Sixties. His clean shapes and uncomplicated lines are in part a throwback to the minis and croppedtops of that decade but reinvented in new fabrics.

"I'm not annoyed by people not being interested in my work," he says. "It is natural and normal. Journalists don't look at my collections now but have turned to people like Jean Paul Gaultier who is the fashion world's darling. But it is dangerous to be famous for a day when you have the rest of your life to live."

Rabanne is fortunate that his name, like that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin, has something of a magic ring to it. Seductive and exotic, it can be slapped on to a bottle of fragrance and sold around the world... And it certainly has been.

Rabanne became a creator of perfumes and aftershaves - while, of course, still not giving up on the day job. So desirable have his perfumes proved that they have been widely copied. More than 35 imitations of the best-selling Paco Rabanne Pour Homme haveto date been discovered around the world. It is a curious and certainly illegal homage. In some countries, his name has become a generic term for aftershave. But Rabanne has been recognised by the establishment, too, for his contribution to the ethos ofFrench perfumery, receiving many awards and citations including the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Award. France has also recognised him by awarding him the coveted Legion d'honneur - the equivalent of the OBE.

Socialites and film stars have worn his creations and, while they may have transferred their loyalties to others, still remember him with affection. Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Francoise Hardy and the late Audrey Hepburn were all Rabanne fans. Today, fashion stylists and collectors comb flea markets hoping to turn up a bit of vintage Rabanne - the real stuff, not the endless copies which followed.

Fashions come and go, though observers might say that Rabanne has not exactly helped himself keep a high style profile. Indeed, he has committed the cardinal sin of telling the world exactly how he feels. Rabanne is an unabashed mystic. He uses the word on his press material and prefers to talk about the Age of Pisces rather than his latest cut. As he talks he sketches symbols and timescales with the addition of significant numbers and dates. This is a man who cheerfully admits that he has lived before - as an ancient Egyptian priest and an 18th-century prostitute.

Rabanne's recently published book was destined to receive the critical brush-off. Has the Countdown Begun? looks at the potential end of the world and ways of averting disaster. The mystic cheerfully steps into the firing line. "I've always been a mystic," he says simply. "I believe in a harmony between creation and belief. When people say I am mad, I laugh because I am saying something very important about the essence of light. What else can I do?"

Keep it to yourself, perhaps. The fashion world loves eccentrics but they should live in candy coloured rooms, love dogs and adore English antique markets. To challenge the way we live and see the future... That's a no-no. For the fashion darlings, Rabanne's face has been badly blackened by his coming out as a seer and prophet. It's hemlines they want, not lifelines. "In any case," he says, "I'm not talking of the end of all time but the ending of a time." So there is hope, then.

Money could not matter less to Rabanne who owns very few personal possessions and lives in a modest rented apartment. Fashion's messiah always presents himself in the same way - collarless tunic jacket and simply styled hair, never a tie ("It's the symbol of the hangman's noose").

Last month, Rabanne launched his latest perfume - XS for men and women - with the advertising tag, "Step into the Light". The bottle's silver lid flicks open like that of a cigarette lighter. His new collection, meanwhile, keeps a finger firmly on the pulse of the young (who in his opinion, "are never wrong"), creating an alluring image by using radical but simple metallic shapes designed to slice the body up into seductive cuts of flesh.

Always a futurist, this latest collection is certainly a link with his space-age past of 30 years ago. He was ahead of his time even then. And only time will tell if he was right - or monumentally wrong.

Paco Rabanne's latest collection is exclusively available at Joseph, 77 Fulham Rd, SW3 from early Feb. Prices start at £150 approx

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all