Fashion, like any other art form, has its enfants terribles. This mantle was most likely taken by the Spanish-born but French-raised designer Paco Rabanne.

Rabanne was both an innovator and an iconoclast, whose first haute couture collection famously featured ‘12 Unwearable Dresses‘. Rather than designing, he engineered his clothes from unconventional materials. These includes plastics and metals in the form of shift dresses that, while uncomfortable to wear,  were definitely a hit on the défilé. His designs were space-age and fetishistic at the same time.

Paco Rabanne purple metal chain-mail shoulder bag; the metal plates are stamped with the designer’s logo

Rabanne applied the same engineering skills to accessories, and the most famous was an aluminum shoulder bag that became sought after. It was deliberately a foil to Chanel’s classic 2.55 bag, that Rabanne replaced the Chanel one with a toilet pull chain.

Paco Rabanne black leather and silver aluminum disk bag; the disks are stamped with the designer’s logo

The result was remote indeed from the shimmering, silken metal mesh bags of the 1920s. But even as it celebrated the industrial, brutalist, unconventional and extreme, the bag achieved a kind of high-modern aesthetic against the odds.

The anti-icon has inevitably become an icon.