When it comes to iconic fashion designers, you don’t get more iconic and recognisable than Dame Zandra Rhodes in the UK, not only for her bright pink hair, but also for her free-spirited take on colour and pattern for the last 50 years, and her incredible dress creations.
To celebrate her five decades in fashion, the Fashion and Textile Museum has put together a retrospective exhibition ‘Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous’ dedicated to her fascinating career, co-curated by the designer herself, featuring a dress from each year of her career, the first dates back to 1969, an ankle-length, screen-printed kaftan, while the most recent is from her Jubilee collection, designed in 2019 to mark her 50th anniversary.
The exhibition is larger than life, just like the designer, with the exhibition space literally dripping in gold to display her incredible designs, inspired by her iconic lamé gowns, and features pieces including those dedicated to New York featuring the Manhattan skyline, which I’m obssessed with, as well as the the dress worn by Princess Diana, the most beautigul palest pink silk chiffon screen–printed with ‘Button and Bows’ in white. While Rhodes may be known for her bright, outrageous colours and prints, it is this demure dress that put her in the international spotlight.
This exhibition isn’t just about her gorgeous, timeless designs, but also Rhodes’ dedicated to her textiles, the process of making her prints and dresses, she has a unique way of designing, where she actual places the garment on herself to see how it moves and then adapts it in the mirror.
It was also great to see her most famous prints up close in the “chiffon forest”, as well as her sketchbooks, I love that she is never far away from her books and sketches daily, nothing she does is on the computer, she is very old school and I like that. It was also so cool to see the costumes she designed for the opera, and her celebrity pieces, including the top she made for Freddie Mercury, which was used in the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and a sample of the dress she created for singer Barbra Streisand.
If you love colour, fashion history and unique prints, this is a fascinating exhibition, where you can actually get up close to many of the incredible designs, I really love the plinth displays, it makes a big impact and really showcases the amazing Zandra Rhodes outfits, more musuems should understand that putting garments behind glass makes it less impersonal and I love how the Fashion and Textile Museum allows visitors to connect with the designs.
Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous at the Fashion and Textile Museum from September 27 to January 26, 2020.