Julien Dossena remembers exactly the Paco Rabanne collection in which he felt that he really stepped foot. “It was fall/winter 2018,” recalls the house’s creative director. “It was a tribute to Paco Rabanne mixing chain mail and iconic pieces and generic costume elements. It ended up being super balanced and felt real, and it allowed me to turn a page and open a new chapter of my work there, like I knew I understood the house and could move on to something more personal.”
The founder of the house, Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo, born in Spain in 1934, worked under the pseudonym Paco Rabanne. An enfant terrible of Parisian fashion, he sought out unconventional materials to create designs that became synonymous with 1960s mod fashion. Jane Fonda wore his costume in 1968 barbarellawhile Audrey Hepburn eschewed her preferred Givenchy in favor of a chain mail dress by Rabanne in 1967 two for the road.
Dossena, whose designs have recently been worn by Anne Hathaway (in The Kelly Clarkson Show), Joey King, Sabrina Carpenter and Demi Singleton, says he’s not intimidated by the house’s history or its strongly identifiable codes. “I love the label for the fact that it was really pure, free territory to create a proposal for a new aesthetic,” says the 40-year-old designer. “It is also a name that carries strong values of modernity, sensuality and radical gestures. I felt that it was the best place to cultivate a unique heritage and update it for the time being.”
For its Fall/Winter 2022 collection, Dossena used the house’s iconic chain mail as a more tailored detail in skirts and dresses with asymmetrical draping or crafted in bubble silhouettes. The latter was perfect for Singleton (king richard) to use in vanity fairOscar party in March. “I wanted to work on bodies and proportions, like organic haute couture or something,” explains Dossena. “So I went ahead and adapted this feel to the metal mesh and worked it to tame it until it matched this idea exactly.”
Dossena also designed a custom silver embroidered sequin top and gold sequin skirt for Carpenter (work it; tall girl) for the most recent Met Gala.
“We’ve seen a number of people who have tried to take on Paco Rabanne, but Julien really revived him and brought him a lot of life,” says Bolden, who styled both Singleton and Carpenter in Paco Rabanne. “What Julien has done is very intelligent; him being able to work with someone as young as Demi and have him jump on board with this young black actress, who’s 15 years old, and what he brings out of the past feels so current. And then when you look at Sabrina Carpenter walking around in that gold skirt, you realize that she hasn’t lost that glitzy mod point of view, she has adapted perfectly to today’s fashion.”
In fact, that balance will continue to attract Dossena’s attention. “Most of the time I always try to go with the instinct of what feels most in the now and base my decisions on that scale,” he says. “So the balance really depends on the collection and what I feel in the moment: sometimes more Paco, sometimes more me. It changes all the time, and that’s what fashion in general is all about.”
A version of this story first appeared in the September 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here for subscribe.