Paco Rabanne gears up for the revolution for SS21
"I don’t think we’re in a time when women need to be quiet — sometimes you need to get the knives out!" says house creative director Julien Dossena.
Courtesy Paco Rabanne
What’s the one thing that Julien Dossena missed most during le confinement? No, it wasn’t the glittering spectacle of fashion or seeing friends for dinner at bistros, but simply walking down the streets of his Paris neighbourhood (the border of the 11th and 3rd arrondissements) observing the eclectic taste of his neighbours and the way they artfully throw together vintage clothes and second-hand denim. Paco Rabanne’s SS21 collection was an ode to those girls. The world may look to the house for its spellbinding chainmail dresses and theatrical armour-like structures, but this season Julien was all about “realness”. Those metallic wonders were treated like installations in a gallery -- the kind that “real girls” would come to look at. “It all came back to the street and making them feel alive again,” he explained over a Zoom run-through, adding that he cast local students, artists and actresses to bring the message home.
There were riffs on vintage piece you might find in flea markets, like lace-trimmed baby doll dresses, folksy prints, ladylike notebook purses and statement costume jewellery, which became trompe l'œil prints. Julien gave it all a modern edge by collaging and splicing it together, paring it down with stonewashed denim, zip-up knits and long, lean tailoring. He described the collection as “sensually aggressive” — a celebration of high-low clothes that are unabashedly loud and sexy — “generous in shape and curvy like Monica Vitti,” as he put it. Think leopard chainmail robes, sequined chokers, oversized brassieres, lingerie-spliced slip dresses and bejewelled lace pencil skirts. “There’s that feeling of ‘bad taste’,” he pointed out. “I wanted it to be louche in the sense that I don’t think it’s the moment to be totally impeccable, as if everything was controlled. We are not in the period that I wanted to do design formal things. I wanted to have fun.” You could say it’s ever-so-slightly trashy, although the designer has a preferred term: “I would say nasty — especially for women, it feels like time that they need to be more nasty!” Americans probably couldn’t agree more.
It comes at a time that a national debate has erupted in France over what is appropriate clothes for teenage girls to wear at school. Last month, teenage girls across the country staged a protest to wardrobe restrictions banning exposed midriffs and short shirts in the classroom by wearing just that to school and then sharing photos of themselves on social media using the hashtag #Lundi14Septembre. This, after all, is a country where the Republican symbol of Marianne is often portrayed topless. And don’t forget Joan of Arc, that other symbol of female French rebellion whose armour was totally Paco-esque. She was just 19 when she was burned at the stake. Case in point: young French women are not to be fucked with.
With that in mind, the show closed with dazzling chainmail creations, jingling masked dresses made of oversized disco-ball sequins and sharp silver daggers. Clothes for modern femme fatale crusaders. “I don’t think we’re in a time when women need to be quiet — sometimes you need to get the knives out!” Julien joked. “The last dress, it’s almost like a weapon.” You probably won’t see it being worn on the Rue Commines any time soon, but sometimes just seeing it on a catwalk is enough to galvanise a sense of real-life solidarity. Vive la révolution!
- Paco Rabanne