One of British fashion greatest contributors, Dame Zandra Lindsey Rhodes has been creating and inspiring us with her brilliance for five decades. Born in 1940, in Kent, England, Rhodes first studied textile design at the Medway College of Art, before proceeding onto attending the Royal College of Art based in London. She graduated in 1964 and taught at her alma mater for 4 years before forming her own fashion company in 1968. Zandra’s first influence into the fashion world came from her mother who was a fitter at House of Worth in Paris, before she chose to educate others in fashion as a senior lecturer at Medway College.
In 1968, Zandra Rhodes paired up with her fellow graduate Sylvia Ayton, who would design and create garments with Rhodes’ bright prints at their own boutique called The Fulham Road Clothes Shop. The pair were very innovative and experimented across many methods of bright prints including making tattoo prints transfers and paper dresses. Unfortunately, due to lack of finance the shop closed, and Rhodes went on to become a freelance designer producing her solo collection in 1969.
Rhodes found influence when she visited New York with her collection and displayed it to Henri Bendel who purchased it for his department store. British stores at this time were hesitant about stocking avant-garde designs. However, she saw her pieces displayed in the ‘’Young Ideas’’ section of Vogue by Marit Allen which encouraged retailers to believe there was a market for this level of designs. Zandra was influenced and became one of the first designers to use street style punk influences. Her collection in 1977 Conceptual Chic saw pieces using reversed seams, safety pins and tears. One key piece was one she designed in the first shop she opened which involved graphics and lettering around collars and cuffs that said ‘’The Fulham Road Clothes Shop’’ repeated over the garments earning her the autobiographic influences. One key influence of Zandra Rhodes was the sketchbook styling, turning organic initial drawings into prints of her signature styles in abstract, flowing, squiggles and screen-print combinations which were all hand designed and made to her signatures. Overall Zandra Rhodes has a flamboyant personality and creative style which made her so exciting to follow and be influenced by as she created her own persona through oversized jewellery, extravagant eye makeup and illuminating outfits.When designing a collection, Zandra maximises the prints and takes the overall print into consideration in the silhouette of the garment. This is why a lot of her designs incorporate layers, gathering, smocking, and shirring. This has caused Rhodes to create unique pieces instead of cookie-cutter styles which made her collections better than mainstream designs.
Dame Zandra Rhodes is a decorated recipient of many awards thanks to her creative front. Some of the awards she has collected are Honorary Doctorates from the Royal College of Art and others across Britain and America. She received CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1977 for her service to the fashion and textile industry, alongside her DBE (Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire) in 2014. She was voted designer of the year in 1972. Her work with the San Diego Opera for the costumes in the Magic Flute has also left her receiving great critical acclaim after she was invited to design the costumes. Alongside many more awards she earned the honour of opening the Fashion and Textile museum in 2003. And over time has seen collaborations with massive companies such as IKEA to help break them into using more bold colours and prints through their stores. Rhodes has also seen collaborations with David Humphries at the Global Plaza Harbourside in Sydney and Del Mar House Terrazzo Project in California, from these in 1998 she received an honour award by the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association.
Overall, Zandra Rhodes' contributions to the fashion and textiles industry has been eccentric and brilliant as she has provided an influential safe space to push the boundaries of eclectic fashion and print design.