Paco Rabanne's 1997 Runway Is This Summer's Fashion Blueprint


(Image credit: 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.


(Image credit: Getty Images/Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma )

This particular look from S/S 97 was so good that stylist Law Roach commissioned current Paco Rabanne Creative Director Julien Dossena to recreate it for Megan Thee Stallion. The 2023 version features a slight variation of fabric and design but still captures the original's disco It-girl essence. Rabanne was famously a master of materials—he molded metal to become beautiful armor for women in the '60s. Years later, he found creative ways to incorporate metal, like chain straps on pants and tops.


(Image credit: Getty Images/Donato Sardella)



(Image credit: Getty Images/ Daniel Simon)

No other material became as synonymous with the fashion house as much as chainmail did. Only a visionary could transform a piece of medieval armor into a symbol of a modern It-girl. To this day, the chainmail dress remains an opulent icon of nightlife. 



(Image credit: Getty Images/Thierry Orban)

To update his iconic chainlink dresses, Rabane used more revealing silhouettes and skinny straps to create a more modern feeling in his S/S 97 collection.



(Image credit: Getty Images/Thierry Orban)

The cutout trend started a few years ago, but judging from this look from 1997, the trend is experiencing more of a resurgence. This piece feels right at home with the prevalence of cutouts today. 



(Image credit: Getty Image/Thierry Orban)

Rabanne was the king of cutouts, as seen here. It's worth noting the illusion of a low-rise bottom layered below a high-rise bodysuit. This was a man ahead of his time!



(Image credit: Getty Images/Daniel Simon )

Rabanne worked with extravagant materials like velvet for this minimal one-shoulder dress.


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Fashion Market Editor

Indya Brown is a fashion editor, stylist, and writer living in Los Angeles. While going to school at Columbia University in New York City, she got her feet wet in the fashion industry interning at Elle magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and New York magazine's The Cut. After graduating in 2016, she joined The Cut as a fashion assistant, eventually working her way up to fashion editor. There, she worked on a multitude of projects, including styling inbook feature stories for New York magazine's print issue, writing and pitching market stories for The Cut, and serving as fashion lead for The Cut's branded content. While New York has been her home for over 10 years, she moved to Los Angeles in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 for a new chapter. Now she is a fashion market editor for Who What Wear, focusing on emerging designers, rising trends on and off the internet, interior design, and BIPOC creatives and brands. Aside from her duties as a fashion market editor, Brown is also a freelance stylist and writer, working on national print and video commercial campaigns for Sephora, The Independent, and Cadillac. Her bylines also include Harper's Bazaar, Vox, and The New York Times. But once the computer goes down and the emails turn off, she's likely eating her way through Koreatown, hunting down vintage furniture, scoping out new outrageous nail designs to try, or taking a hot cycling class.