What’s that you hear? The jingle of chain mail is ringing through the streets as Rabanne partners with H&M for a collection that brings the line’s trademark metallic shine to a wider audience. The 129-piece assortment, part of a line of designer collaborations that has paired the Swedish retail giant with brands like Mugler and Simone Rocha, delivers the core vision of Rabanne (which was known as Paco Rabanne prior to a recent rebrand)—at a wallet-friendly price.
“From that first meeting, the feeling was, ‘Yes, let’s go—it’s going to be fantastic, and we’re going to have so much fun doing it, and it makes sense,’” Julien Dossena, Rabanne’s creative director, says of the collaboration during a conversation at Rabanne’s Paris office. “How can we make customers and the mainstream happy? By proposing accessible and desirable pieces of design that are part of fashion history.”
Paco Rabanne, who died earlier this year, launched his collection in 1966. His futuristic approach and innovative use of materials like plastic and metal quickly made it a favorite of stars like Françoise Hardy and Twiggy, and, more recently, Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber.
The collaboration caters to a wider market but maintains key Rabanne signatures, with pieces like a wool military coat, a sparkly tracksuit, and, of course, looks shimmering with paillettes. The line also includes shoes, accessories, and homewares. Dossena, who has been branching out lately (he also guest-designed Jean Paul Gaultier’s fall 2023 couture collection), hopes it conveys a “’70s hedonistic lifestyle, fun and light-feeling, and at the same time gives them that quality and super-sophistication that we always apply to the brand.”
“You can see twentysomething girls who are crazy to have historical pieces of Rabanne and, at the same time, a 70-year-old woman who knew that era and wants to have a piece that she never could find or afford,” he adds. A faux fur-embellished coat is a prime example: He calls it “a super-classic that I can see every woman wanting to have. We worked on that without overthinking it—just, ‘What is desirable, easy, sensual in every pragmatic circumstance of life?’”
Working with the weight of H&M behind him allowed Dossena to experiment with materials and processes that hadn’t been accessible to him before, like working with a supplier for recycled aluminum. “When we were talking about metallic mesh and chain mail, it’s all by hand, it’s something that needs to be learned. When I saw the first prototypes, it matched the quality and the sustainability expectation that we all had,” Dossena explains. He hopes that he will be able to incorporate similarly recycled elements into his main line.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative adviser for H&M, fell in love with Dossena’s mood boards at first sight. “You always go back to Rabanne when you are thinking of something futuristic. It has such a strong legacy and history. Now it’s blooming again. Julien has developed it and made it more relevant and modern, with a new femininity,” she says. “We always have the customer in mind. They’ll love this because it’s feminine and glamorous, and it’s fun and playful, too. It’s really happy, I think. It lifts up your spirit.”
A version of this article appears in the November 2023 issue of ELLE.
Adrienne Gaffney is the features editor at ELLE and previously worked at WSJ Magazine and Vanity Fair.