FASHION PROFILE: ZANDRA RHODES
Zandra Rhodes, a fashion designer who was made famous in the 1970s, is still going strong working as a fashion and costume designer, testing the boundaries of conventional design.
Born: 19th September 1940
Famous for: Being an iconic fashion and textiles designer of the 1970s.
Style Characteristics: Garish prints, gypsy style/floaty dresses.
Zandra, a child of the forties, grew up submerged in the fashion industry. Her mother, a fitter in a Paris Fashion house, began to teach Zandra the basic skills (vital to a new designer). In later years, Rhodes would go on to study at Medway College of Art (now, the University for the Creative Arts) and then the Royal College of Art. Zandra completed her education in London, her major area of study being printed textile design (a clear strength in her design work).
Fashion Career / Textile Design
Although Rhodes’ early designs were considered too outrageous and extrovert (fitting her creative personality quite well). Like most designers, she did not start the way she was to go on. Designing at a similar time to Betsey Johnson and Vivienne Westwood, female designers were beginning to challenge previous, conformist designs (the late 60s, early 70s were in the midst of a rebellion against clothing worn by their generations’ parents; proud veterans of the Second World War).
As she developed her style of design, Rhodes began to incorporate her printed textiles into collections. The use of her prints soon became an intrinsic part of the garments he created, now something which defines her as an artist and fashion designer.
Famously, Vivienne Westwood has taken full credit for the invention of punk (in terms of fashion design), however, adding to the movement was Zandra Rhodes, amongst others.
Although Rhodes’ designs arent classically punk (ripped/distressed fabrics with “DIY” style applique…), she challenges conformist fashion design by incorporating historical and cultural influences into her garments. Paired with her bold, extrovert prints, Zandra has created a very unique style favoured by the rich, famous and most importantly, fashionable. She is a designer who came to define a theatrical element of British style.
Zandra Rhodes’ designs clearly reflect her dramatic, glamorous and extrovert life, “she has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion” putting her bright pink hair, theatrical makeup and costume jewellery to good use.
Her nickname “Princess of Punk” was coined in 1977, determining her the daughter of Vivienne in terms of her diluted response to Westwood’s aggressive movement (in the form of a pink and black distressed jersey collection with beaded safety pins).
Like many designers, Zandra Rhodes has exploited the success of her self named “brand”, and rightly so. Her collaborations expand far beyond the media of fashion, she created collections for MAC makeup, jewellery and has designed for a wide variety of famous clients, many of whom also favour her vintage pieces.
As a creator of garments with such a theatrical nature, Rhodes has transferred her skills as a fashion designer to the world of costume, allowing her creativity to flow more vibrantly as she designs for famous operas such as Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”.
Zandra has also devoted much of her time to setting up the Fashion & Textile museum in London, and, as well as displaying other designers’ work, displays of garments and sketchbooks provide an insight into her own design process.
An example of a page in one of Zandra Rhodes' sketchbooks
Models' outfit sheet for a runway show
Zandra Rhodes designing for "The Magic Flute"
Zandra Rhodes designing for the "Pearl Fishers"
Please visit the Fashion & Textile Museum’s website for more information:
To read about a similar designer, Ossie Clark, here: