Rabanne and H&M recently teamed up to unveil an exciting collection, blending futuristic design with contemporary charm. Inspired by the iconic creations of Paco Rabanne and creatively directed by Julien Dossena since 2013, the collection pays homage to the 1960s legacy while pushing fashion into a new era of accessibility. H&M has had interesting designer collaborations since 2004, a departure for the brand but one which has served them well with collections selling out within hours.
Closer to home, H&M delighted fashion enthusiasts with the Sabyasachi x H&M collection, a surprising, stunning collaboration. Combining H&M’s accessibility with Sabyasachi’s opulent designs, the collection showcased intricate craftsmanship and rich textiles.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, Head of Design womenswear and Creative Advisor at H&M and Dossena’s latest collaboration showcases a gender-fluid range, including clothing, accessories, and even home décor in partnership with H&M Home. This collection is inclusive and embraces a rental initiative that allows customers to enjoy select items in exclusive colourways at specific stores.
Dossena emphasised the liberating feeling Rabanne’s clothes evoke. With its innovative approach to fashion and a touch of Parisian allure, this collaboration promises a fresh and inclusive experience for fashion enthusiasts, marking a significant milestone in the world of fashion.
ELLE: The Rabanne H&M collection draws on the iconic 1960s creations of Paco Rabanne. Can you share more about the inspiration behind reviving these iconic designs and how they have been re-energized for the modern audience?
Julien Dossena: I’ve worked at Rabanne for 10 years now, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the archives. Even before I worked at the brand, I loved its subversive spirit. It’s rare in Paris for a brand to have this combination of youth, modernity and radicalism.
When I arrived as Creative Director, I studied the metallic chainmail, which was the signature of the founder Paco Rabanne from the 1960s, and I gave a lot of thought to making it more contemporary.
Thinking about this collection for H&M, I was clear from the beginning that I wanted to be generous with our iconic designs and share them with more people at a more accessible price. I worked with the team to develop items from our previous collections in ways that were very understandable, light, free and easy to wear. The H&M collection has the same balance of effortlessness and radicality that I try to have in all my designs.
ELLE: H&M has a history of successful collaborations with renowned designers. What sets the Rabanne H&M collaboration apart from previous collaborations, and how does it contribute to H&M’s legacy of designer partnerships?
Ann-Sofie Johansson: Rabanne has a unique place in fashion history, and that was something that instantly appealed to us when we were thinking about a potential collaborator. The founder Paco Rabanne was the master of metal – everyone thinks immediately of a metallic dress, Jane Birkin in a metal mini dress or Audrey Hepburn in shimmering sequins.
Julien has been at the brand now for 10 years, and he has put the brand back on the map, addressing the heritage but making it feel modern and wearable. We felt a collaboration with Rabanne would offer our customers something unique in terms of design and attitude, so we made a request, and I’m thrilled that Julien accepted.
As for where it sits in the legacy of designer partnerships, over the last 19 years we’ve collaborated with some of the most avant-garde brands like Comme des Garçons, some of the most glamorous brands like Versace, and some of the most exciting young designers like Simone Rocha.
ELLE: The collection features a blend of iconic chainmail and glittering sequins with easy sportswear and slick tailoring. Tell us more about the innovative craftsmanship techniques used to create these dancefloor-destined styles.
JD: As I mentioned, I wanted to be generous with this collection and to share our house icons with customers who might not have come across them before, at a more accessible price.
At the same time, I wanted to have pieces that were more for the every day – I like to dress people for a party on Saturday night, but they need something to wear to go to work, too.
Some of the pieces feature embroidery and embellishment that has been finished by hand, and the chainmail pieces are particularly impressive, featuring crochet panels that have been hand-stitched to the chainmail. There’s a huge amount of thought and detail that has gone into each piece in terms of fit, and I’m very happy with the result.
ELLE: The collection spans womenswear, menswear, accessories, and home decor. How did H&M ensure a cohesive design aesthetic across these diverse categories, and what challenges were faced in creating a harmonious collection?
ASJ: The consistency in attitude and design flows from Julien. He has such a strong point of view and aesthetic, and he came up with a clear and comprehensive idea for a lifestyle which encompassed all the categories.
As a designer, he has a very daring and expressive side, but he is also super pragmatic. He is always thinking about the customer and how a garment will feel, which is something we think about constantly at H&M.
ELLE: It’s mentioned that certain embellished items feature recycled PET sequins and recycled glass rhinestones. How important was sustainability in the design process of this collaboration, and what steps were taken to ensure a more eco-friendly collection?
JD: I was clear from the beginning that I wanted to observe best practices and ensure the collection was produced in high-quality fabrications. I can remember being a young fashion student, being so excited at the thought of getting my hands on a piece of iconic design.
I have friends who have cherished pieces from previous H&M designer collaborations. A friend of mine still wears her H&M Lanvin piece, and another has a piece from H&M Margiela. In that sense, durability was important. I also knew that H&M had experience in sustainable innovations so it was exciting to learn from them.
The most challenging pieces to create were the chainmail items. H&M worked closely with the supplier to create a more sustainable version of the chainmail, in a blend of recycled and conventional metal, with the same shine and durability as our originals.
We’ve been trying to do this in-house for years, so I’m really happy we managed to achieve it with H&M.
ELLE: The collaboration is accompanied by a short film directed by Xavier Dolan. Could you elaborate on the decision to create this film and how it enhances the overall consumer experience?
ASJ: We always want to ‘stop the world’ for a moment with our collaborations, and we experiment with new formats all the time – for Mugler, we worked on a music video, with brands in the past we’ve held runway shows and music concerts.
Julien suggested Xavier Dolan as someone he has always wanted to collaborate with, and it was very exciting to see such a visionary director bring the collection to life.
ELLE: This collaboration includes a rental service for exclusive colourways of certain items, how does the rental service initiative introduced in this collaboration align with Rabanne’s vision for the future of fashion?
JD: Rental is not a service that we currently offer in-house at Rabanne I would say that it hasn’t caught on yet in France, or at least not in the way that it has in the UK or Sweden. But I’m always happy to embrace new technologies and experiment with new ideas, so when H&M suggested creating some pieces for rental, available via their stores, I thought it was a good proposal. I’m excited to see what people choose.
ELLE: H&M is known for making high fashion more accessible. How was inclusivity, in terms of sizes, styles, and price points, considered in the Rabanne H&M collection to ensure a wide range of consumers can enjoy the designs?
ASJ: Our goal at H&M is to be a destination where customers can engage with affordable, inclusive and sustainably-focused garments. We approached this collection with those values in mind, working with Julien to ensure that his designs could be adapted to span different sizes, price points and tastes.
Sometimes it might be a case of switching a fabric choice to allow for some stretch; in other cases when we are really in love with a garment or fabrication, H&M will make up the difference so that our customers can experience brilliant innovation and design at the prices they love.
We also work hard to maintain a pricing structure that feels accessible – the chainmail dress is the most expensive item in the collection, but if you love that look, you could purchase the chainmail earrings at a lower price. Pleasing every single person is not possible all of the time, of course, but we try to have something for everyone.
Launching on November 9, 2023, the Rabanne H&M collection transcends conventional boundaries, seamlessly blending iconic chainmail, and glistening sequins with versatile sportswear.
Also read, Interview: Paco Rabanne Emily Ratajkowski