Yet at this particular auction, the Paco Rabanne garments are expected to fetch the highest bids. There’s a cutout aluminum frock (1966), which looks more armorial than sartorial, and a leather and metal biker jacket the designer made for Brigitte Bardot in 1967. Still, Patricia Frost, Christie’s specialist of textiles and couture, predicts that Rabanne’s wedding gown, made from slivers of white leather held together with only metal rings, will take top billing; its presale estimate is about $15,000. “His design is diametrically opposed to the normal idea of a wedding dress,” Frost says of the garment, which was commissioned in Paris in 1967. “It says that the bride is a strong, independent person, wearing what looks like chain-mail armor. She is going into battle and is no shrinking violet.” It comes as little surprise, then, that the wedding was called off. The bride’s sister held onto the dress for decades but finally sold it to Rodriguez and Haddawy in 1999.
While Frost is a huge fan of the Rabanne lots, she also is quick to rave about those by Rudi Gernreich, an innovative designer whose quartet of modernist jersey gowns (1975) features sculptural attachments, designed and signed by jeweler Christopher Den Blaker, which wrap the neck, shoulders or arms. “It’s not a mass production thing,” adds Frost. “It’s really wearable art.”
In the end, such is Rodriguez’s hope for the collection: that the clothes are bought to be worn. “That was always one of the messages behind Resurrection. It was never supposed to be this ultra-rarefied thing,” says Rodriguez, who, prior to the sale, often donned much of the garb. “That’s what’s been so cool…. There’s been this tremendous energy because people wear the clothes. And that’s what they’re designed for, you know?”