A lceo Dossena was a singular artist. A sculptor by trade, his extraordinary ability to replicate any style, of any era and in any material made him one of the recurring names in the artistic salons of the early 20th century. The problem was that his dealers (especially Alfredo Fasoli) sold his works as genuine, that if a Greek Venus, that if a polychrome Madonna, behind his back. And there was scandal. “The abnormality of his work became so natural that only later did we realize that what we were witnessing was the reincarnation of a Renaissance master and an Attic sculptor,” said Hans Cürlis in his epic documentary from 15 hours Working hands (Creative hands). What the German filmmaker was saying is that, in view of Dossena’s work, this unwritten law that ensures that a work of art can only originate once, depending on certain historical-temporal peculiarities, was annulled. Well, there is a lesson that, today, the great-great-grandson of that singular artist shows in his own role: that of fashion designer.
“In a sense, I am a craftsman. That is why when you know your trade you are able to adapt to one job or another, you can express yourself in different brands according to the moment, to make them something desirable, which is what I like about my profession ”, Julien Dossena concedes with a smile after reminding him of the feat of his ancestor. His does not detract from his side: as the creative director of Paco Rabanne, a position he arrived at in 2013 after working at Balenciaga, he has rebuilt from its foundations the brand that was once a sign of modernity in a label that, in addition to being coveted , passes practically by original. “I have always thought and acted this way, because I think it takes time not to build a brand, but for it to exist in the fashion landscape. And we cannot ignore that there are many people who had forgotten the existence of Paco Rabanne, of what he meant. Returning its values, its relevance, its modernity to the market has been a whole process. But, at the same time, he had the freedom to create a new signature, so to speak, to start a blank page ”, explains the French designer (Brittany, 1982), who shortly after his arrival at the Franco-Spanish house already he expressed his desire to seat his personal chair. Eight years later – an exceptional lapse for these times of dizzying booms and busts in the clothing industry – it is possible to speak of a Paco Rabanne more Dossena than Rabanne. “It is a present proposal and it must be that way. Also, if I didn’t express myself as I am, it would be a waste of time. “
Puig, the Spanish group that owns the brand – in which it has participated since 1968 with a seminal perfumery alliance – does not break down the benefits of its assets, but taking into account the global results for 2019 (the latest data provided, that the balance of the disastrous 2020 will not arrive until spring) and knowing that Paco Rabanne is one of its strengths (along with Carolina Herrera), there is no loss either: just over 2,000 million euros in sales and an attributed net profit of 226 million that show the good path . “I have always focused on the product, on the concrete, rather than on more blurred issues like lifestyle or celebrities. No, what I want is to create and sell a product that is as precise as possible, ”says Dossena. “What I do is observe the women and men around me and try to intuit what they want from a brand like Paco Rabanne. That has also led me to put more of my collection after collection, to build a personal narrative and expand my vocabulary, so that it is understood more and more. That’s why I think people already know what Paco Rabanne is in terms of fashion today ”. Indeed: there is a new generation of rabanners, young and not so much, fatal fans of a label that has transcended its cliché (see the chainmail and metallic materials on which he founded his future in 1966 with those Twelve dresses impossible to wear) to be signified as ready to wearr luxury, here and now. “Guys don’t care who was there before, who founded the brand or where this or that comes from. That is the good and the bad of the new generations. Their relationship with fashion is more immediate, they like what they see, or not. They consider us almost like a new brand, a cool brand. Even the mesh seems new to them! ”, He wields. “Then you can be didactic, making them see that behind there are roots, a history, a legacy. But you can also just walk by and look ahead. Actually, it is not a problem ”.
“Have you ever had the opportunity to meet or speak with Mr. Rabanne?”
—No, and the truth is that I would love it, because I have been working for a long time under his name and with his legacy. Having a dialogue and knowing what he thinks would be great, because this is a sensitive question: we talk about the work of someone real, who has come out of him, his creative, artistic vision, and one is never sure if he is going to connect. But I am sure of myself, insofar as I have dealt with the inheritance that he has left with respect, with nobility, recovering his values. This is a very special brand, very intellectual too; he thinks that in it Spanish radicalism is mixed with French preciousness. Approaching something like this is especially difficult, although after seven, eight years, our work has proven its validity and value ”.
A student of Fine Arts at the Parisian Duperré before turning to fashion design at La Cambre in Brussels (in the schools of his country he could not find his last or spur his interest), Dossena celebrates that first training because, he says, it has helped him with the precise cultural references to create something different from what is already known. “They come out instinctively to me, it’s a blessing”, he affirms, and then reflects: “When you study, you feed yourself. Those years of learning are the only moment in your life in which you have the freedom to discover what is going to touch you, to shape you, the books through which you are going to manifest yourself, the art that you will shape to your liking … ” . Can we speak then of a work of clothing curation? “Yes, there is something of that,” he answers with a laugh. “But I think you have to go beyond ideas. As I say, I put all the emphasis on the product. I’ve been doing it since I started, 15 years ago: studying the volume, analyzing the lengths, observing the movement of the body inside a garment… Actually, I see myself more like a film director ”, third. Well, the movie he’s involved in is a blockbuster, while he has set out to make Paco Rabanne a global brand, with the fashion and perfume divisions fully integrated, while expanding horizons with the men’s collection, presented in 2019 and , right now, on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, and an upcoming genderless beauty line in full swing. “It’s difficult because, to be honest, this is not a creative moment. But I do think that we need to be braver, show the courage to propose changes and open paths. That and show some joy ”, he reasons.
– Do you think that the fashion industry is honest in that desire for change that it boasts so much now?
—I see a lot of goodwill, because change is inevitable. The world needs to express those feelings of inclusion, diversity, equality, respect for the environment, and that has to be reflected in our work. In our case, it is part of the very essence of the brand, it is at the heart of what I do. What I do reject outright is the marketing opportunistic, the greenwashing. Of course, there is nothing more sustainable than to stop producing clothes. But that’s not our job, of course.
After much deciding presentation options at the height of the circumstances (fashion shows online, short to view in streaming, brand communication forms praised in this pandemic year), the designer decided to show Paco Rabanne’s spring / summer 2021 proposal in a face-to-face fashion show. Attentive to their reasons: “Fashion is an industry that employs many people: directors of casting, models, production companies … They are a lot of professionals who survive thanks to these assemblies, it is their way of making a living and I did not want to leave them in the lurch. Telling them: ‘Oh, I’m sorry, this year you don’t work’, with all the job destruction we’re seeing, it seems very unfair to me. ” The collection itself is a display of empathy and hope: “I try not to get depressed by looking out the window and not seeing anyone on the street. But i refuse to do marketing from this situation: as people are homebound, we are going to create comfortable clothes. Look, if you want to be comfortable, you will buy the tracksuit at the sports store. Missing this opportunity to offer something more fashionable does not seem right to me ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.