Paco Rabanne Spring 2023

Something stinks, and it’s not just the pungent rubber invitation for Paco Rabanne’s spring show.

After several collections devoted to the hedonistic rebirth that was supposed to mark the end of the coronavirus pandemic, designer Julien Dossena was in a more somber mood for spring, sending out protective gear in tune with the rapidly souring political climate.

“I wanted a strong, determined woman this season, so I explored quite a lot of new materials,” he said in a preview. “It felt like a preparation for battle, in a way.” 

Founder Paco Rabanne was fond of “impossible materials” like metal and fiberglass. Dossena went for more supple alternatives such as poured latex, which gelled into glossy, multicolored raincoats and dresses, and fine chainmail, which he combined with a foil-like fabric of silk and metallic thread for silver space-warrior looks.

In a U-turn from the opulent, couture-inflected designs he’s shown in recent seasons, he referenced punk, fetish and military elements before alighting on grunge, with lace-encrusted latex slipdresses in a clashing palette of scarlet, purple, electric blue and mint green, and distressed knits embroidered with fine silver chains. 

Heavy-soled cyberpunk boots grounded outfits ranging from uniform-like printed PVC tops and pants, trimmed with metal grommets, to gauzy knit dresses studded with silver pearls, and retro-style chiffon gowns layered over bondage pants.

The designer said his hopes for a great liberation have been dashed, and he fears the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is only the beginning. “There’s a kind of backlash against all the societal changes we’ve seen in recent years. It’s staggering. It’s as if we were living in a world of zombies,” Dossena said.  

With its complex fabrications, morphing materials as diverse as metal, rubber, velvet and tulle, this collection wowed with its breadth of techniques and gung-ho spirit. The questions remains: will the Rabanne customer cling to her party frocks, or is she ready to gear up for a fight?

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