Zandra Rhodes (born 19 September, 1940. Chatham, England) was introduced to the world of fashion by her mother, a fitter for the Paris fashion House of (Charles) Worth and later a lecturer at Medway College of Art. Zandra studied at Medway College of Art, and then at The Royal College of Art in London. Her major area of study was printed textile design.
Zandra Rhodes Textile Designs
Her early textile designs were considered too outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers so she decided to make dresses from her own fabrics and pioneered the very special use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garments she created. While teaching at art college, in 1967, she opened her first shop: The Fulham Road Clothes Shop in London with Sylvia Ayton. In 1969 she set up on her own and took her collection to New York where Diana Vreeland featured her garments in American Vogue, after which she started selling to Henri Bendel in NY, followed by Sakowitz, Neiman Marcus and Saks. In the UK, Zandra was given her own area in Fortnum and Mason, London. She was Designer of the Year in 1972 and in 1974 Royal Designer for Industry. In 1975 she founded her own shop off Bond Street London and boutique area in Marshall Fields, Chicago.
Zandra Rhodes garments in American Vogue 1970
Natalie Wood by Penati in Zandra Rhodes Vogue 1970
Zandra’s own lifestyle is as dramatic, glamorous and extrovert as her designs. With her bright pink hair, theatrical make-up and art jewellery, she has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion. She was one of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970s. Her unique use of bold prints, fiercely feminine patterns and theatrical use of colour has given her garments a timeless quality that makes them unmistakably a Rhodes creation. In 1977 she pioneered the pink and black jersey collection with holes and beaded safety pins that earned her the name of “Princess of Punk”. Her posters from this period have been a continuous inspiration for make-up artists and are collectors’ items.
She has designed for clients as diverse as Diana, Princess of Wales, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Freddie Mercury of the rock group ‘Queen’. She has a strong following in the US, UK, and Australia.
Zandra’s dresses are the ultimate dress-up dress. Helen Mirren, star of “The Queen” wore a Zandra Rhodes when she received her award from BAFTA and Sarah Jessica Parker dressed up in a Zandra for “Sex and the City”. Her vintage pieces have long been collected by Tom Ford and Anna Sui and have been worn by Kelly Osborne, Ashley Olsen, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
Additionally, Zandra has set up the Fashion and Textile Museum in London which was officially opened May 2003 by HRH Princess Michael of Kent. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta designed the museum, which is in stunning pink and orange, and already has a preservation plaque. The museum is dedicated to showing the work of fashion and textile designers from the 1950s onwards. This museum has created several notable exhibitions: “My Favorite Dress”, “The Little Black Dress”, and Zandra’s very own “Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles”, which is a major monographic exhibition exploring the forty year career of the iconic British Designer herself.
Rhodes was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1997 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to British fashion and textiles, having been invested at Buckingham Palace by Princess Anne.
The Art of Zandra Rhodes
A glamorous hardcover reprint of the 1984 edition
This book began as a record of Zandra Rhodes’ work and has become the ultimate reference book for students studying the process behind creating designs. It explains how Zandra’s ideas are translated from her original sketchbook drawing, into a textile design, and then into the final garment. It spans from the beginning of her career to 1981.