Golden Lady: Zandra Rhodes Celebrates 50 Years in Fashion With an Exhibition in London
“I’m still here—in spite of,” says Dame Zandra Rhodes, with a smile and a bit of stiff upper lip, when asked to sum up what she’s accomplished in her first 50 years of fashion. This golden anniversary is being marked in many sparkling ways: There was an auction of archival pieces in Stockholm; an exhibition, “Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous,” opening this week in London; and a book that includes essays by Anna Sui and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, among others. And let’s not forget the Jubilee collection for Spring 2020, photographed on three icons: Jan de Villeneuve, Pixie Geldof, and the pink-haired designer herself.
Navigating fashion as an independent designer is never easy; Rhodes has admirably kept to a lane of her own making, and fashion has, of late, come around to her way of thinking. Rhodes’s focus has always been on craft and quality over quantity. “I think Zandra has stayed so true to her style and her look,” Sui tells Vogue, “and the same things I love about what she’s doing now are the same things I loved about what she did from the very beginning. What attracted me was the fact that she made those incredible prints and she wore them so well. And she was the first person besides David Bowie that I saw with colored hair!”
Rhodes’s world is infused with color and animated by pattern. Her designs are textile led—Rhodes draws her own prints and silk-screens them in her studio, then makes them into garments that more often than not waft around the body. Sui’s favorite piece, which is included in the exhibition, is an “Indian Feathers” print dress. After designing and producing the print, Sui explains, Rhodes “cut around the feathers and then hemmed them by hand so the feathers actually kind of flutter.”
There’s no denying the floaty, free-spirited, bohemian appeal of Rhodes’s work, but her talent is multifaceted. There’s an element of classicism in some of her pieces that places her on a continuum with Mariano Fortuny. And who could forget the designer’s slashed and chain-embellished body-loving jersey punk dresses? Decades later they are still being copied. Unforgettable, too, are Rhodes’s pleated wonders, fit for a latter day Queen Elizabeth—and Freddie Mercury. (Not too long ago Rhodes remade the outfits she created for the Queen front man for Bohemian Rhapsody).
“Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous,” is presented at the Fashion and Textile Museum, which Rhodes herself founded in 2003. “50 years of celebration” is how the designer sums up the show. On view is a dress from each year of Rhodes’s career, the first dates back to 1969 and the most recent is from the Jubilee collection, designed in 2019. “I feel completely lionized,” says Rhodes—who wouldn’t say no to some of her current work being shot and credited in the press, thank you very much. Rhodes counts among the highlights of her career making “fantasy dresses” for Princess Diana and seeing Princess Anne in one of her dresses on the cover of British Vogue. Both seem rather fitting tributes to this dame, who is also a queen of the fashion realm.
Originally Appeared on Vogue