Fashionista: Zhandra Rhodes

Zhandra & Me
Zhandra Rhodes is the original eclectic British designer. At a recent talk held by the BFC Rhodes described her career and how it all started. She broached on many subjects such as how she made trends happen before they had even begun and how she has made her career work for her spanning over 5 decades.

She has a lifelong affair with textiles, bright colours and bold prints. Rhodes spearheaded 70’s fashion with her flair for bold prints. Rhodes is a graduate from the Royal College of Art specialisin in printed textiles although fell into the world of fashion by mistake. Rhodes love for textile and designs people said her designs were too extreme so she couldn’t sell them. This brought her to her role and future career path as a designer. 

Rhodes’ garments feature a quality like no other making them unmistakably Rhodes’ creations. Her designs are bold, dynamic, colorful and feminine. This can be seen by her overall presentation displayed in her bright and eclectic hair colours. 

Her vintage dresses are seen at the Oscars and her print design influence is on the world’s catwalks. Rhodes founded the Fashion and Textile Museum London and The Queen made Rhodes a Dame in 2014 for services to fashion.

She is also responsible for the set up of the the design & textiles museum in Bermondsey and has taken on designing theatrical sets. Her exhibition: “Zandra Rhodes, a Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles” has exhibited all over the world, including Milan, Melbourne, Mexico City, Boston and Kuala Lumpur.

She has worked with Freddie Mercury and designed for the queen. In 1974 Freddie and Brian came to her studio in Bayswater  and took her clothes off the rail. Because Freddie had worked in Kensington market – he was not adverse to the styling process. Rhodes states “I told him you have to manoeuvre around to see how they feel,’ 

Brian May in Rhodes batwing design

They moved around in the outfits and tested them out to see how comfortable they were to perform in. They were a teeny bopper band at this time and rock domination had not beckoned. Rhodes demonstrated her skills as a stylist and basically transformed the band from a teeny bopper band. Brian kept having his jackets stolen so she had to keep making new ones. After this Queen tried many more looks and images.  

Mercury in 1974 in Rhodes creations

Zandra focus is not so much on the garment construction but the formation of patterns and prints. She takes inspiration from her travels. Rhodes states that a great Challenge of today was technology and computers as it  gets in the way of creativity. She doesn’t draw on a computer therefore she does the essentials and then does her work at night on the computer. She also doesn’t like to answer her phone as it disrupts her creative spark.

She would like to travel to Tibet and lakes in china. She loves to see new places and she describes herself as one step above of a ‘backpacker’. This is her idea of inspiration. She also likes to collaborate with high street brands such as her recent affiliations with H & M and She has done collaborations with simply Be and Topshop describing how she had been replaced by ‘Kate Moss’.  (but didn’t seem to bothered about this) probably because she is confident in her abilities as an inovative deigner as opposed to the use of using a branded model and celebrities to push sales and products. Zandra is always interested in new jobs and is open to take on new challenges.

She is at the moment in the process of designing her collection for the luxury multi brand shop Matches. She goes through her Fashion archive to find inspirations.  

Rhodes touched on how fashion became part of her from a young girl as she loved drawing and painting. At the Royal college of Art she became a textile designer. When she made her textiles and tried to sell them people didn’t want them. She was not a trained garment designer although her mother sewed. But stated that these days it was rare for this to happen now. Today there is no limit and much more flexibility as we do multi task and get into different variations of careers other than our majors. She said she found people who felt sorry for her and who could interpret her prints into clothes. Rhodes stated that Armani was a doctor and Issy Miyake was an engineer, this clairifies that what you actually major in doesn’t always necessarily relate to what you go into as a future career path. 

What inspires Zandra today – to meet people to meet younger people and see  how they feel. For make up, trends and different looks. To try something different and experiment more. She also stated that  Allezedine Alaia and his knits were amazing and she loved being around fellow peers and designers like him for inspiration 

Some of Zandra’s work is produced under license: handbags, bed linens, tights and socks. Jackets and kaftan tops for Jacques Vert, Ethical fashion for People Tree, prints for Westminster, and garments for Vogue McCall patterns. Rhodes’ latest collection is for Kraftangan of Kuala Lumpar and includes batiks and “songket” (brocade) teamed with dynamic printed chiffons.
Her innovative approach to garment construction can be seen in her use of printed fabric dictating garment shapes, reverse exposed seams and stylistic use of jeweled safety pins and tears during the punk era. She has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion with her spectacular pink hair, theatrical makeup and art jewelry.

Princess Diana in a garment inspired by Egypt

Zandra has designed for Diana Ross, Pat Cleveland, Princess Diana, Princess Michael, Freddy Mercury, Diana Ross, Helen Mirren, and Ellen Burstein’s outfit for her Emmy Award. Rhodes has also designed Opera sets and costumes for The Pearl Fishers, Magic Flute and Aida. She has also designed for Carrie Bradshaw cementing herself as an iconic queen of fashion. In fact I can now definitely see where designers such as Betsey Johnson and Patrica Field have got inspiration from. Zandra has created a consumer segment of her own style and fashion and her style stamp is so evident and sets her apart from everyone else in the industry. She demonstrates how a clear love of art, textiles and prints transcends across all generations, demographics and cultures.  

La Fin X

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