Zandra Rhodes celebrates 50 Years of Fabulous

As the British national treasure marks 50 years in fashion, Grazia explores the longevity behind the legend
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Zandra Rhodes celebrates 50 Years of Fabulous

After hosting retrospectives for the likes of Anna Sui and Missoni at the museum she founded, finally it’s Zandra Rhodes’ turn in the spotlight. The designer Dame marks her 50th anniversary in the industry with a jubilee collection modelled by Jan de Villeneuve and Pixie Geldof, and a dazzling exhibition, Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London – the largest-ever exhibit dedicated to her iconic work. “I’m lucky that I think I’ve paid my dues long enough that I can do things somewhat on my terms,” she​ observes. “All good things come to those who wait.” We couldn’t agree more.

Key pieces on show include Autumn/Winter 1972’s Shell Collection’s silk chiffon gown, still produced today for Matches Fashion; looks from Autumn/Winter 1981’s Gold Renaissance collection, fresh from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Camp: Notes on Fashion, and designs worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Harry, and Kate Moss. On what it is that draws such icons to her work, Zandra muses, “Maybe because I’m a woman, I design what women actually want to wear. As a designer you read the zeitgeist and are one step ahead to provide your customers with exactly what they want, even if they don’t know it yet.”

When asked how her work still manag es to feel modern after 50 years, Zandra responds, “Do they feel modern? What even is modern?! Because I work a lot with nature and landscapes and we think of these things as eternal – they don’t date as ideas. Trends change for fabric colours, but a sunset on Uluru still would look today how I painted it in the ’70s. We are creatures of imagination, industry, romance and comfort, among many other things, and so there is a security in what we think of as eternal. Everyone loves a sunset.”

Zandra’s Chevron Shawl Print Circle from 1969 is among the archive pieces on show

When Valentino Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli revisited Zandra’s archive for his debut solo collection, it confirmed that prints she designed in the ’60s and ’70s remain as sought-after and relevant 50 years on. “Fashion is notoriously cyclical because we are romantics, but as an artist first and foremost, I wanted my prints to have longevity, as any artist hopes for their work. Over the years, some have been more commercial than others for obvious reasons. It’s hard to pinpoint who will want what when, but I have a great team who get excited about prints I’ve forgotten about!”

• Don’t miss Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous at The Fashion and Textile Museum until 26 January 2020. Visit ftmlondon.org for more info